Northern Ireland

McGuinness says Irish WWI sacrifice needs remembered

The sacrifice of all Irishmen who fought in WWI should be remembered by unionists and nationalists, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said.

"Republicans have no wish to erase the memory of their bravery or their part in Irish history," he said.

"Many working-class Irishmen fought in the British army at that time because of the unrelenting poverty that they and their families experienced."

He was speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, County Donegal.

Mr McGuinness said the forthcoming decade would mark the centenary of "a number of defining events in Irish history including the Great Lockout of 1913, the Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme, the Ulster Covenant and the Partition of Ireland".

"Nobody should be afraid of commemorating or debating these landmarks in our history," he said.

Ireland was partitioned in 1921, and thousands of people from across the island fought in both world wars.

'Collective memory'

Mr McGuinness said the "sacrifice and loss" of Irishmen who fought in WWI were "no less worthy of remembrance".

"The experiences of republicans, nationalists, unionists and all others form part of our collective memory. They are part of who we are as a community, as a nation.

"While we must remember these events we also must critically engage with our past. The past 100 years, while a fraction of the life of the nation, was taken up by partition, divergence, exclusion and conflict.

"These failures must be consigned to the past. I believe that Ireland is now set on a course towards unity, convergence, inclusion, and lasting peace. This is not a bland aspiration."

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