Speaker McLaughlin recognises role of Royal British Legion

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 29 February 2016

Reference: SO 16/15/16

Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, tonight held a reception in Parliament Buildings for the Royal British Legion. The reception was attended by around 150 members of the Legion and MLAs.

Speaking at the reception, Speaker McLaughlin said: "I am entering my last few weeks as Speaker but this is one of the events I wanted to ensure I hosted before I retire from this place.

"There are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, I want to recognise the work the Legion does providing care and support throughout our society. I think it is very important that this Assembly recognises the work that is done helping others in our community, particularly when so much of it is done in a selfless and voluntary capacity. So I want to put on record the thanks of this Assembly for the work the Legion does in providing welfare to those in need.

"Secondly, I want to recognise the significant contribution the Legion has made to marking our shared history. I particularly want to express my personal appreciation for the Legion's work and leadership on commemoration which has provided me with much very helpful direction.

"Remembrance is of course a very personal thing which will often be influenced by our own backgrounds. I have spoken before about my regret that it is only in my later years that I have developed my interest in the cause of wider remembrance in our community and particularly my knowledge of the impact that the First World War had on our local population.

"My approach has been that giving proper respect to remembrance should mean involving as many people from as many different perspectives and traditions. However, that is of course challenging in a community such as ours with diverse political views. Obviously, as we demonstrated here last year, the more people you seek to involve in remembrance, the more difficult it becomes to satisfy all those individual personal preferences for what remembrance should entail. However, we should still not lose the importance of bringing people together through remembrance.

"In that context, I have found the advice from the Legion to be very sensitive, thoughtful and mature. The fact that we should actively remember, and particularly the dead of both World Wars, is something we should all be able to agree on. How we each wish to remember is not a subject for tonight but the Legion has a key role to play in continuing to provide impartial and non-political support and expertise which keeps us in this building and others focused on the cause of remembering and not the politics around it. That work in itself performs a very valuable contribution to this society.

"I thank you all for coming tonight. I know I will continue to engage with the Legion after I leave office and I want to encourage you all to keep up the good work."

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