30/11/2011

Mayor Slammed Over Army Cadet Presentation

Two politicians have hit out at the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast following his actions at a Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme ceremony at the City Hall this week.

The Ulster Unionist Mike Nesbitt and Strangford representative said: "The Lord Mayor of Belfast once again demonstrated his inability to represent all the citizens of the City.

"Belfast City Council has a tradition of hosting Duke of Edinburgh Award ceremonies and there was another one at the City Hall last night.

"Questions were raised when the proceedings started 45 minutes late with no explanation. Then the five people listed as forming the Platform Party - including the Lord Mayor - were joined by a sixth and while the 'Presentation of Certificates' by The Lord Mayor was proceeding, it was stopped half way through and the remainder of the certificates were presented by the sixth person, Gordon Topping of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme.

"The problem appeared to be down to the fact that one of the recipients was from the Army Cadet Force," claimed the MLA and former TV journalist and presenter.

"This is absolutely shameful. So much for Sinn Fein's fine rhetoric about a shared future. So much for an Ireland of Equals."

Later the Alliance Party Belfast City Council Group Leader Cllr Máire Hendron also condemned the actions of Mayor, Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile after he refused to present a Duke of Edinburgh award to a teenage who is also an army cadet.

Cllr Máire Hendron said: "I am appalled at what happened. We are trying to build a shared future and I am very shocked at what Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile did.

"Being Lord Mayor is about representing and respecting everyone in the city of Belfast and I am deeply annoyed at Niall Ó Donnghaile's behaviour. The message that this incident sends out is very troubling."

In response, Mr O Donnghaile said he was only told "at the last minute" that an award was to be presented to a cadet force member and said someone else then joined him to present the certificates.

Mr O Donnghaile said he would be happy to meet the cadet and her family to explain his decision.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster last night he said: "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."

(BMcC)

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