REPUBLICANS from North Belfast gathered in Ardoyne today (Easter Tuesday) for the annual Easter commemoration. 

Hundreds of people turned out at the Garden of Remembrance in Herbert Street before a wreath-laying ceremony and music from the O’Neill/Allsopp Flute Band and the Coatbridge Republican Flute Band.

Sinn Féin councillor Nichola Bradley addressed the crowd in a wide-ranging speech which referenced with the Israeli war on Gaza.

"Easter Tuesday is always a very special day for us here in North Belfast," she said.

"I thank the Ardoyne, Bone and Ligoniel Commemoration committees for their work all year round in maintaining the memorial gardens and keeping alive the memories of those we lost. We have come together as proud communities to remember our loved ones who lost their lives as a result of Britain’s war in Ireland," she said. 

"This is also a time when we remember the men and women of 1916 who rose up against the might of the British Empire and all those generations since, including the men and women from these districts, who took part in the struggle for Irish Freedom."

The Sinn Féin councillor paid tribute to local republicans for their part in the struggle against British rule.

"The people of this community refused to accept second-class citizenship and we paid a heavy price for our desire for independence, for Irish unity and a republic based on equal rights for all."

Addressing the current political situation, Cllr Bradley said "change is happening now right across Ireland".

"Sinn Féin wants to make Mary Lou McDonald the first woman Taoiseach in the history of the southern state and we want a government that leads the change to a new Ireland, an Ireland that all of us here can be proud of.

"An Ireland that will be a fitting tribute to all we honour here every Easter."

On Gaza, the Sinn Féin spokeswoman said republicans stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the people of Palestine.

"The Israeli genocide in Gaza is an obscenity," she added. "We must have an immediate ceasefire, an end to the blockade on food, water and medicines, the release of all hostages and an end to Israel’s cruel starvation of the Palestinian people."