30/06/2004

SF Deputy Mayor will not attend cenotaph commemoration

Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor of Belfast, Joe O'Donnell, has said that he will not be present at the wreath laying ceremony to mark the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme.

Joined by the former Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey, Mr O'Donnel said he would attend the special meeting of the Council in the Chamber at 11am where a minute's silence will be observed for those from the 36th Ulster Division who lost their lives, but that he would not be attending the wreath laying ceremony.

Cllr O'Donnell said: "I believe this level of direct participation to mark the Somme anniversary is appropriate for me as Deputy Mayor of Belfast.

"I believe it is building on the initiatives taken by Alex Maskey during his term as Mayor to reach out to the unionist and protestant people of Belfast".

Two years ago in his capacity as Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey laid a wreath at the cenotaph.

Cllr O'Donnell said: "It clearly shows that republicans are committed to engaging with the unionist and protestant people and that we are prepared to meet them on common ground no matter how difficult it is for us as republicans to do so. This is what making peace is all about.

"I decided to participate in the Council meeting because I am keen to show the continued commitment that republicans in this city have to building bridges into the unionist and protestant community.

"I also believe as part of this ongoing commitment by republicans with civic responsibility to mark occasions like the Somme, Councils need to establish all-inclusive ceremonies where everyone can participate.

He added: "Tomorrow's ceremonies will appeal to only one section of the people of this city, those from a unionist and protestant background," although he added that he looked forward "to the day when all the Councillors and all the people of Belfast will feel welcome at Belfast's cenotaph".

(SP)

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