1916 centenary should focus on “terrible loss of life” says Primate.NLI

The leader of the Catholic Church of Ireland has told of his fears that the 1916 commemorations could trigger increased tensions between the Nationalist and Unionist communities in the North.

The Primate of All Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin urged organizers of the Easter Rising centenary celebrations to avoid a "false glorification" of the event and to focus instead on the victims.

Primate of All Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin.

Primate of All Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin.

He said he hoped the "terrible loss of human life" would be the main focus of the planned centenary commemorations for both the Easter Rising and the Battle Of The Somme, one of the bloodiest conflicts in history with more than 1 million casual ties, including many from the island of Ireland.

He said: "It's a very significant year for the people of Ireland, both North and South. One of the first things to remember is that there are two major commemorations taking place on the island this year. We have, of course, the remembrance of the Easter Rising and then we have the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, where tens of thousands of Irish people fought and many, many lost their lives.

"It's so important that when we are remembering that we do not engage in some sort of revisionism or kind of false glorification of the events, either of Easter or indeed of World War 1, but instead we recognize the horrific and terrible loss of human life that took place.

Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in World War I.

Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in World War I.

"We know that on this island there are lots of people who carry hurt for the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland that is very recent.

"I think we can do all we want with rose-tinted glasses to look back 100 years at 1916, but in doing so we should not be indifferent to the huts and the pains and the wounds of people, which are still very raw."

In an interview with iCatholic, he added: "I hope that in our remembrance of 1916, we are very aware of the present and the possibility we could drive a wedge during this year, rather than promote harmony and friendship."

Read more about the 1916 centenary here.