SF criticised over trying to block Seamus Mallon becoming freeman of Drogheda

Labour Senator Ged Nash says Sinn Féin move ‘a vindictive, petty and small-minded political act’

Seamus Mallon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

Seamus Mallon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Sinn Féin has been criticised for attempting to block former Northern Ireland deputy first minister Seamus Mallon being made a freeman of Drogheda on the basis that its own former leader, Gerry Adams, was more deserving of an honour from the Co Louth town.

The party’s councillors voted against a proposal, backed by all other local councillors, to award Mr Mallon, aged 81, the status of freeman of Drogheda. The decision was taken at a meeting of Drogheda Borough District Council earlier this week.

Labour Senator Ged Nash, who is based in Drogheda, said the Sinn Féin move was “a vindictive, petty and small-minded political act”.

Sinn Féin has argued there are other, more deserving people who have a connection with Co Louth and who worked on the peace process.

“We have a TD for Louth,” said Sinn Féin councillor Kenneth Flood, who said Mr Adams would be “a better candidate than Seamus Mallon”.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said: “Sinn Féin councillors in Louth voted against the freedom of Drogheda for Seamus Mallon as they felt it was wrong to elevate one person who was involved in the peace process above all the others who were also important to ensuring a lasting peace in Ireland.”

The ceremony to make Mr Mallon a freeman of Drogheda will take place on June 8th. Past recipients include President Michael D Higgins.

Mr Nash claimed Sinn Féin’s “effort to rewrite history and airbrush the SDLP out of the narrative continues”.

“In the last few months in particular and as we reflect on the establishment over 50 years ago of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, we have witnessed a determined and shameless campaign by Sinn Féin to re-write the history of that tumultuous time.

“This approach is designed to shoehorn themselves and the Provisional IRA into the civil rights narrative and to completely airbrush the SDLP and the honourable tradition of constitutional nationalism out of our recent political history.”

He said Mr Mallon is the 34th person to be given the freedom of Drogheda, but this is first time councillors have split on a nomination.

“The awarding of the freedom of Drogheda should not be used as a means to settle scores with political adversaries, particularly against towering figures like Seamus Mallon who consistently pursued the aim of peace and genuine reconciliation on this Ireland through entirely peaceful and non-violent means.”