Stormont's Communities minister accused of centenary events ‘snub’

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Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey

By PA news

Northern Ireland’s communities minister Deirdre Hargey has been accused of a “callous snub” of the region’s centenary.

The Sinn Fein representative confirmed her department has no plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Northern Ireland.

Ms Hargey said a £3 million fund has been set up by the UK Government to mark the landmark date.

She said the Public Records Office will facilitate access to archival records relevant to the centenary and launch an A-level education resource.

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley claimed the move was part of a “recurrent theme” by Sinn Fein following the party’s rejection of a proposal by unionist parties for the centenary stone to be installed at Stormont.

“Many people in Northern Ireland would rightly view your callous snub of the centenary as a recurrent and running theme within Sinn Fein, first the centenary stone, and now (from) a department which has so much responsibility, no funding coming for it,” he told MLAs.

“When will the Department of Communities, plural, step up and respect the cultural aspirations of a significant community within Northern Ireland?”

Ms Hargey responded by saying there is “nothing callous in my approach”.

The minister was also challenged by several other unionist representatives.

UUP leader Steve Aiken said he had welcomed comments made by Sinn Fein representatives around the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, adding “in view of that in the spirit of reconciliation, could she and her party consider to agree to even just a centenary stone in the grounds of Stormont?”

“I think that would say just as much,” he said.

TUV leader Jim Allister urged Ms Hargey to be “the minister for all communities”.

Independent MLA Claire Sugden said she appreciates the minister and others do not wish to recognise the centenary, but questioned whether there was an “opportunity to invest in youth in the name of NI 100”.

“For me, the centenary is about looking forward and I think there is a real opportunity to do that,” she said.

Ms Hargey described Northern Ireland’s centenary – along with a number of other significant centenaries this decade – as “sensitive issues”, which she said some will want to celebrate, while others will not.

“I think that we need to be responsible and sensitive in terms of how we address all of these issues,” she said.

“What I would prefer to see is that we sit down collectively as an Executive, it’s not just the responsibility for me as Communities minister.

“We are living in contested society, we are seeing issues emerge on our interfaces and things rapture, and I think anything that we do has to be planned and considered.”

(Stormont Communities minister, Deirdre Hargey)

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