Party marks 107th anniversary of Easter Rising at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast
Seanín Graham – Sun Apr 9 2023 – The Irish Times
The “hard-won peace” brought by the Belfast Agreement should never be taken for granted and must be protected, an Easter Rising commemoration has heard.
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane told a large crowd gathered at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast on Sunday that those seeking to undermine peace and progress did so “for their own narrow political interests”.
He said the onus was on the DUP to restore Stormont amid “cruel” budget cuts to public and community services used by the most vulnerable in society.
Mr Finucane was eight years old when his father, the solicitor Pat Finucane, was shot dead in front of him and his family in their Belfast home by loyalists in 1989.
Addressing those gathered to commemorate the 107th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the North Belfast MP said he also wanted to acknowledge the “pain and trauma” that many families “from all backgrounds carry as a result of tragic loss during the conflict by all armed groups”.
“Today we live in a different place. This Easter we mark 25 years since the people of this island voted for the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement,” he said.
“That peace accord brought to an end three decades of conflict and it stands as a historic international success story in peacemaking. That agreement put reconciliation at the heart of progress. As a result, an entire generation has now grown up in a time of opportunity, free from armed conflict.
“We must remain vigilant however that the peace, political progress and social change ushered in by the Good Friday Agreement should never, ever be taken for granted. We must continue to work to protect our hard-won peace and our hard-won progress.”
There has been no functioning government in the North for more than a year as the DUP refuses to re-enter the powersharing institutions over its ongoing opposition to post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Referring to the Windsor Framework deal struck between the UK government and the European Union, Mr Finucane said it gave the North’s businesses a “huge competitive advantage as a gateway to the British and EU Single Market. The negotiations are now over and the recent agreement between London and Brussels has been adopted into EU law. This is a golden opportunity to strengthen the economy and create good jobs. We need an Executive up … the democratic outcome of last year’s historic election must be respected.”
His speech also noted a need for the “urgent” establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly to prepare for a referendum on united Ireland.
“Unity referendums can be won and won well, but we will have to reach out and create space for others across Irish society to come on board,” he said.
Separately, police confirmed on Sunday that an investigation is under way into a masked colour party at an Easter Rising parade in Belfast.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the vast majority of parades were lawful and passed off peacefully.
“There was, however, a masked colour party at the head of the Irish Republican Socialist Party parade on the Falls Road in Belfast,” he said.
“Police issued warnings to participants and using evidence-gathering resources, obtained footage which will now be reviewed as part of an investigation into potential offences under the Terrorism Act 2000. As is normal for notified parades, we will also prepare a report to the Parades Commission on the conduct of the parade.”