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Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland

Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that the centenary of partition and the formation of Northern Ireland is a moment to reflect on the differing experiences of communities over the last 100 years but more importantly, an unmissable opportunity to renew the conversation about the island’s next 100 years.

Speaking after the Northern Ireland Office published details of its centenary programme, the Foyle MP said that the history of Ireland cannot be reduced to a branding exercise that ignores the layered complexities of our society.

Colum Eastwood MP said:

“The centenary of partition and the formation of Northern Ireland is an important moment for us all. As with all the commemorations during the decade of centenaries, this will challenge us to show generosity and respect for the differing experiences of our traditions and communities.

“I recognise the sincere importance of Northern Ireland to the personal and political identities of many people in our community. This centenary speaks to the personal histories of many families as much as it speaks to our shared past. However, I also know that this anniversary is not a source of celebration for many of us. It opened the door to a new century of institutional discrimination against my community, the results of which we can still see in the economic scars that our towns continue to live with.

“What is clear is that this is much too an important an event to be reduced to a branding exercise. The SDLP has chosen not to take part in the Northern Ireland Office Centenary Forum precisely because we do not believe that the British Government is truly interested in telling the difficult story of partition. It would do a disservice to the importance of the moment to fail to engage with the whole lived experience.

“And while I believe we need a rounded debate on the impact of our recent past, it cannot be at the cost of a renewed conversation about our future. The impact of Brexit has shaken the tectonic plates of our political and economic settlement. With talks ongoing about our future with Europe, people are engaged in a thoughtful and meaningful debate about the future of these islands. That debate about a new Ireland, creating a fairer, more prosperous society where we tackle poverty, homelessness and want is needed now more than ever.  That’s the kind of conversation that the SDLP will be leading.

MIL OSI United Kingdom