Sinn Fein Mayor refuses to present Duke of Edinburgh’s award

In response to my previous post on the mistreatment of Irish WW2 Veterans, my friend sent me through a link to the following article. Belfast has a 26 year-old mayor? Who knew…

Apologies for the Irish emphasis today… and for appearing to only be criticising nationalists/the Republic of Ireland. This is not my intention, it is just the material that has come my way today. I think it is disgusting that someone in public office can get away with this sort of behaviour. Were this anywhere else I would have expected some sort of disciplinary action… I would ESPECIALLY expect disciplinary action in Belfast of all places. When will people learn that there are more important things in life?

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor’s snub to Army cadet at awards ceremony (from the Belfast Telegraph)

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Lord Mayor of Belfast is facing calls to resign after he failed to present a Duke of Edinburgh award certificate to an Army cadet force member.

Niall O Donnghaile (26) pulled out halfway through presenting awards at Belfast City Hall on Monday night to avoid interacting with the girl, believed to be aged just 15.

Ironically, the Sinn Fein first citizen was yesterday photographed at the launch of a new good relations plan for Belfast, just hours after he had caused the row.

UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt, who was at the ceremony, said questions were raised when the proceedings were delayed for 45 minutes.

He explained: “Then the five people listed as forming the platform party, including the Lord Mayor, were joined by a sixth. The programme of events listed item two as ‘Presentation of Certificates by the Lord Mayor’ but for some reason he stopped halfway through and the remainder of the certificates were presented by the sixth person, Gordon Topping of The Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

“The problem appeared to be down to the fact that one of the recipients was from the Army Cadet Force.”

Mr Nesbitt added: “Actions speak louder than words and thanks to the actions of the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast, 150 award winners, plus friends and parents, were kept waiting. This is absolutely shameful. So much for Sinn Fein’s fine rhetoric about a shared future.”

Last night Mr O’Donnghaile denied he had shirked his civic responsibilities, claiming he had stepped aside because he did not want to compromise his republican principles.

“As Lord Mayor I was invited to attend The Duke of Edinburgh Awards in City Hall,” he said. “I agreed to present a number of the awards to the young people in recognition of their endeavours. As an Irish republican I did not shirk my responsibilities in this instance. At the last minute I was informed that one of the awards was to be presented to a representative of the Army Cadet Force.

“In order to avoid any unnecessary sensitivities to either party, it was arranged for the outgoing chairman of the organisation to present some of the certificates alongside me.

“Since becoming Mayor in late May I have attended over 620 engagements, many of them in working class unionist communities. I take my responsibilities as being a Mayor for all very seriously.”

This is not the first time the Sinn Fein man has courted controversy. In June he caused outrage among unionists after replacing Royal portraits in the parlour with a copy of the 1916 Irish Proclamation of Independence.

He also refused to attend an event at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and declined to attend a homecoming parade for troops back from Afghanistan.

DUP councillor Gavin Robinson said: “Of course the irony is that he agreed to present the awards at all. The Duke of Edinburgh is Colonel-in-Chief of the cadet forces. The Lord Mayor needs to start upholding the value of his office and representing everyone within the city; either that, or he needs to step aside.

“It is a scandal that the Lord Mayor debased himself and his office by politicising the event.”

Bob Stoker, whose soldier son was injured while serving in Afghanistan, has also called for the Lord Mayor to step down.

“Previous Lord Mayors have had to engage with people from unsavoury backgrounds, such as people who were in prison or who were members of the IRA, but they did so because it was their civic duty. I think he needs to consider his position.”

Maire Hendron, who chairs the good relations working group at Belfast City Hall, said she was “appalled” by what happened.

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About Chris

Scholar of religion/nonreligion... PhD Student (Lancaster University), blogger, singer, actor, thinker... Northern Irish living in Scotland. Co-founder of The Religious Studies Project. Director at the NSRN. Baritone masquerading as a tenor. Vegetarian for no particular reason.

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