McGuinness urges Mid Ulster to ‘stick together’ against dissidents in lead-up to Easter commemorations

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Following an appearance in Cookstown on Wednesday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is urging nationalists and unionists to stick together against dissident republicans.

He made the comment when asked if he had a message for those celebrating the Easter Rising at parades in the district on Easter Sunday.

Authorities have said the threat level in Northern Ireland remains severe in the run up to the commemoration, but the Deputy First Minister said he has no concerns about the way such parades will be run.

Hitting out the those responsible for the death of prison officer Adrian Ismay, who was laid to rest on Tuesday, he said: “My message to people is that the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising is very important to Irish republicans and nationalists, but also has great significance for unionists.

“In the decade of centenaries that we’re in, everybody has a duty and responsibilty to approach all of the commemorations - whether the Easter Rising or the Battle of the Somme - in a respectful and very dignified way.”

Two separate parades planned for Coalisland, brought with them fears that tensions could arise, but Minister McGuinness said he did not “have any concerns about the way these marches will be conducted”.

“I hope that they will be conducted in a way which brings great pride to the event and great honour to the event,” he added. “But, against a backdrop of the murder of Adrian Ismay - totally unjustifiable - it is very important to make the case that those who are involved in those activities are involved in acts of futility which unfortunately take people’s lives, but will not progress one iota, a political agenda.

“The only way forward, and the people of Ireland have declared for this with the different agreements that we’ve made, is a peaceful way forward. The tiny number of people out there who are committed to violence, their strategy is really about trying to divide Sinn Fein from our unionist government.

“They want to bring down the government, they want to destroy the peace process, they want to plunge us back to the past and there is no support in the community for that.

“The best antidote for the activities of these people is for us to stick together and for the community to support the police services both north and south.”