Sinn Fein ‘arms’ Irish history: Republic Justice Minister and Ulster Alliance signatory granddaughter recounts Micheal Collins commemoration
Irish Justice Minister Heather Humphreys accused Sinn Fein of seeking to “militarize history” to “fit their own political narrative”.
In a speech to mark the 99th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins, Ms Humphreys said politicians should respect the past and “not hide behind it to escape responsibility for our own decisions and their impact”.
“This is a lesson that some political parties on this island have yet to learn, parties with emotional reverence for the atrocities of the past,” the minister added.
Ms Humphreys does not name Sinn Fein but said: “In 2016, one party in particular tried to distance itself from the state and run its own side events.”
The reference is to Sinn Fein’s decision to hold its own series of events to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, separate from state-sponsored commemorations.
“True reverence for the past respects its disorder and complexity, it does not requisition or divert it for political ends,” she said.
“It’s a lesson we should all learn as we remember the difficult events of the treaty split and the Civil War.”
The minister also referred to her own grandfather, Robert James Stewart, who signed the Ulster Covenant – who opposed the move to introduce self-government to Ireland.
“I am sure that never in his wildest dreams, Robert would have thought that a little more than 100 years later, his only granddaughter would speak at a commemoration in honor of the man. who led Ireland’s struggle for independence, ”she said.
“Besides, he could not have imagined that she would be a minister in an Irish government. I have not lost sight of the fact that without the nascent Free State – which Michael Collins fought for – I might never have had this opportunity, ”she added.
The Beal na mBlath ceremony marked the 99th anniversary of the Free State military commander ‘s fatal shooting with a special online ceremony and no physical event held in West Cork due to Covid-19 concerns.
Ms Humphreys warned that voters in modern Ireland do not vote on the basis of events of 100 years ago, but rather on the needs and priorities of today.
“In truth, I think the time was long gone when it was a determining factor in how people voted.”
She added: “I was very proud in 2016 as Minister of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht to lead the commemorations marking the centenary of the Easter Rising.
“My own past, as a Protestant, hailing from a border county and as a person with an instinctive loathing for those who attempt to promote bitterness and division, made me particularly sensitive to the dangers we faced. at that time.
“My guiding goal was to ensure that commemorations were inclusive, respectful and appropriate.
“Above all, I saw my role not to interpret history but to commemorate it and recognize all its complexities.
“Michael Collins didn’t have time to hide behind fictionalized views of the past, and neither do we.
“During a heated debate over the treaty, he noted how other politicians have used history as a weapon, masking their arguments by asserting what the dead generations would have wanted, or future generations might one day want. .
“But they ignored the democratic principle of whether the living could approve it. I believe, like Collins, that we must respect the past, but we must not hide behind to escape responsibility for our own decisions and their impact.
“It’s a lesson some political parties on this island have yet to learn, parties with emotional reverence for the atrocities of the past.
“They are trying to ‘arm’ history and in some cases rewrite it entirely to fit their own political narrative,” she warned.
Sinn Fein has been approached for comment.
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