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Boris Johnson unveils first steps towards marking centenary of Northern Ireland next year

A centenary forum and a centenary historical advisory panel are set to be established.

Michelle O'Neill, Boris Johnson, Brandon Lewis and Arlene Foster
Michelle O'Neill, Boris Johnson, Brandon Lewis and Arlene Foster
Image: PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has acknowledged that not everyone will share the view that the centenary of Northern Ireland’s foundation next year is a cause for celebration.

In a visit to Belfast today, Johnson announced the first steps towards mark the centenary of the partition of the island of Ireland in May 1921.

The Prime Minister unveiled plans to establish a centenary forum and a centenary historical advisory panel to mark 100 years since the foundation of the North.

But he noted that Irish nationalists, who have highlighted the discrimination that has existed during the existence of Northern Ireland, may not share his view, and said that learning other perspectives could be incredibly valuable.

Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill has said that republicans will not honour the creation of a state built on religious discrimination.

“When it comes to partition Northern Ireland was built on sectarianism, gerrymandering (tampering with voting districts to deliver certain results) and an inbuilt unionist majority and that is not something that I would ever celebrate,” she said.

Sinn Fein’s vice-president also explained that it was important that republicans engaged in the debate around partition and looked to the future.

“There is no doubt in most people’s minds that partition has failed everyone, our people, our economy, our two islands,” she said.

DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster pointed out that events next year could be held in an inclusive fashion which did not cause offence and recalled previous contentious anniversaries in the republican calendar.

“I think it is an event for the whole of Northern Ireland, looking forward to the future, looking forward to our young people having a place in the world and that is what I want to see happening for our centenary plans,” she said.

She added: “It is important that we recognise the reality that Northern Ireland is part of the UK and has been for 100 years. We also recognise that there have been a number of anniversaries already passed by.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was important that the centenary events were respectful and enlightening.

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“History for me is about enlightening the generations to come and current generations,” he said.

“It’s not about trying to prove a point – there will be different perspectives in relation to obviously the centenary commemoration of 1920 and 1921 in respect of the island of Ireland, both in the Republic we will be doing our centenaries and likewise in the North.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “The centenary is an opportunity to celebrate the people, places and products of Northern Ireland, which has such rich sporting, cultural, entrepreneurial and academic talent.

“It is an occasion to promote Northern Ireland as an attractive place to visit, invest and do business, a place where our young people choose to stay and use their talent to build.”

With reporting from Press Association.

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