27/06/2002

Belfast Lord Mayor to lay Somme wreath

Belfast's Lord Mayor, Alex Maskey, is to lay a wreath at the cenotaph in Belfast on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

However, the Sinn Féin councillor will not be attending the official ceremony, which he calls the "military commemoration".

He said that he will lay the laurel wreath, in the memory of all men who died at the Somme and during World War One, two hours before the official ceremony.

Mr Maskey said his decision was supported both within and outside his own party.

"I am fully aware of the difficulties this causes for Irish republicans. I am fully aware of how it might be received in sections of the unionists political leaderships.”

He added: “Nevertheless, I ask that it be accepted as a good faith, goodwill contributed by me to addressing the issue and to the overall political and peace process.”

Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey said: “As first citizen, he said he wished to represent all the people of Belfast, and to do that, he should attend a commemoration which is important to unionists.

“He should simply be attending in order to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Belfast and leaving afterwards.”

Mr McGimpsey said he did not feel unionists could be offended by Mr Maskey's presence at the ceremony.

“I don't think unionists could complain if he attended and paid tribute to their traditions. I think as mayor, he is expected to be there.”

(AMcE)


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