Irish Republican News · July 2, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
New Deputy Mayor commemorates Somme

Sinn Féin’s approach to the annual commemoration in Belfast of the World War I Battle of the Somme has again proven controversial.

Following a decision by the party’s ruling Ard Fheis against attendance at British military commemorations, there will be no repeat of Alex Maskey’s decision, as Mayor of Belfast, to lay a wreath to the war dead on this day two years ago.

Sinn Féin’s deputy mayor, east Belfast’s Joe O’Donnell, said he will take part in a minute’s silence in the council chamber before today’s wreath-laying ceremony.

“ 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.

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.”

Mr O’Donnell shrugged off accusations by unionists of a snub.

Mr O’Donnell said: “I realise and respect that this is an important date for people and I do not want it to disappear off the calendar.

“What I do want is an event which is all-inclusive and can be attended by people from both sides of the community.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News