Derry’s SF Mayor not attending remembrance day service

International School For Peace Studies chief ‘bitterly disappointed’ at decision

Symbols of remembrance at Westminster Abbey, London, November 5th, 2015. Sinn Féin’s Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council  will not  attend this Sunday’s remembrance day service in Derry.  Photograph:  Andy Rain/EPA

Symbols of remembrance at Westminster Abbey, London, November 5th, 2015. Sinn Féin’s Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council will not attend this Sunday’s remembrance day service in Derry. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

The Sinn Féin Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council has announced she will not be attending this Sunday’s remembrance day service at the war memorial in the Diamond in Derry.

Cllr Elisha McCallion said she had met with members of the Royal British Legion and explained to them her reason for declining their invitation to attend the cenotaph service on Sunday at 11am, as first citizen of Derry.

Chief executive of the International School For Peace Studies, Glen Barr, said he was bitterly disappointed at Cllr McCallion’s decision and described it as a retrograde step.

In a statement, Cllr McCallion said she had met legion members to discuss ways of commemorating our shared history in a more inclusive manner.

‘Cordial and fruitful’

“Our discussions were cordial and fruitful. I explained my reason for my decision to respectfully decline the legion’s invitation to attend the cenotaph this Sunday. I welcome the legion’s understanding and acceptance of my decision. I will delegate attendance at the war memorial in the Diamond next Sunday to the Deputy Mayor, Thomas Kerrigan.

“Following the practice of former Sinn Féin mayors, I intend to hold a day of reflection in early December which will commemorate all those from the council district who died as a result of all conflict. I believe that delegating this event to the Deputy Mayor is the most respectful manner in which to proceed,” she said.

Responding to the Mayor’s decision, Mr Barr said he believed it was a retrograde step in terms of inclusivity and shared history.

“I am very sorry to hear this news and I am bitterly disappointed that an agreement cannot be reached on this. On June 7 of this year, Councillor McCallion, as well as her Sinn Féin party colleague Mitchel McLaughlin, Speaker of the Assembly, both attended the Battle of Messines service at the same cenotaph. Their attendance on that day was a groundbreaking event and was applauded and welcomed by many in our society.

‘Cycle of respect’

“I saw their attendance then as the start of a cycle of respect for each others’ commemoration, which is true political leadership.

“I was full of praise for her attendance then, just five months ago, but now I feel nothing but disappointment.

“I do not know the Mayor’s reason or reasons for declining the invitation offered to her by the Royal British Legion locally - but I am deeply deeply disappointed.

“Just a few years ago we witnessed the queen laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin in memory of both British and Irish soldiers. I can think of no reason why the Mayor cannot do likewise in her home city on Sunday morning,” he said.