Unionist leaders dismayed after Stormont centenary stone refused

Unionist parties have criticised a Sinn Féin "veto" of a proposal to install a stone at Stormont to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland.

In a joint statement, the DUP, UUP and TUV said they submitted a proposal to the Assembly Commission for a centenary stone to permanently mark the date within the "curtilage of Parliament Buildings".

Sinn Féin said the proposed centenary stone "reflects only one political perspective".

Images of the suggested stone were sent to the Assembly Commission.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, UUP leader Steve Aiken and TUV leader Jim Allister said the stone would not have cost any public money.

"We are dismayed by the refusal of the commission to permit this project, which would not have cost the public purse as our respective parties and MLAs were committed to funding it," they said.

They have claimed the refusal arose after Sinn Féin vetoed the proposal.

"This is the party that talks most about respect for all communities, but when a modest proposal was made on behalf of the wider unionist community it was callously vetoed," they said.

"Those we represent are left to ponder that if this is how we are treated in our own land, just how much more oppressive would our treatment be if we were ever so foolish as to consent to the 'New Ireland' that these same deniers of respect seek to promote."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said unionist parties should have first discussed the proposal for the centenary stone with other political parties.

"Such an approach to the centenary of partition could embrace the very different perspectives of that event and how best to reflect these perspectives in an inclusive and respectful manner," they said.

"Unfortunately, the proposed stone has been designed and commissioned by representatives of one tradition and reflects only one political perspective.

"In that sense the centenary stone proposal is symbolic of the past failures of political unionism and of this state.

"Those past failures are certainly not a template for the future and for this reason Sinn Féin does not agree to the proposed centenary stone.

"If the leaders of Unionist parties are open to a conversation on an open and inclusive approach to the events of 100 years ago, I would very much encourage and welcome such a positive discussion."