02 April 2006

Alliance to shatter Connolly memorial window proposal

Sunday Life

02 April 2006

PLANS by Sinn Fein councillors in Belfast to honour republican hero James Connolly seem doomed to failure.

The party wants to create a stained glass window in the City Hall in memory of the controversial socialist figure who was executed after the 1916 Easter Rising.

The issue has divided nationalists and unionists ahead of tomorrow night's monthly council meeting.

But we can reveal that the Alliance Party - whose four members hold the balance of power on the 51-strong council - will vote AGAINST the proposed memorial.

Born in Dublin, Connolly lived in Scotland until 1910 when he came to Belfast to work alongside trade union leader James Larkin.

His role in the dock workers strike led to him becoming a key figure in the Irish labour movement, going on to be a founder of the Irish Labour Party.

In 1916 he moved to Dublin to lead the Irish Citizens Army in the GPO during the rising.

After the insurgency was quashed, the wounded Connolly was strapped to a chair to be executed.

Sinn Fein's Fra McCann said the erection of a memorial to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising was an essential part of being a shared city.

"Belfast City Hall has been filled with the symbolism of unionism and the British Army since it was opened," he said.

"There is little or no sign that nationalists make up half of the population of this city.

"A stained glass window dedicated to Connolly would be a sign that both traditions can be equally respected."

The DUP's Nelson McCausland vowed unionists would oppose the motion, claiming: "1916 was directly responsible for poisoning and polluting Irish political life for the past century."

The move to honour Connolly with a memorial was passed last month by the council's policy and resources committee.

But committee member Mervyn Jones told Sunday Life last night: "There was some confusion over that vote and we as a party would not be supporting a memorial when it comes before the full council on Monday."

He added: "I do not think a stained glass window in memory of Connolly is appropriate, particularly as it is not the 100th anniversary of this event.

"My party would, I believe, support some form of commemoration, perhaps a lecture and exhibition putting the Easter Rising in its historical context, without any political point scoring."

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