Mayor 'Sorry For Offence' Over Cadet Award

The Belfast Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile has said that he has no issue apologising for any offence caused by his refusal to present a Duke of Edinburgh's award to a 15-year-old girl - who is also a member of the military Cadet Forces.

He has this afternoon defused a growing row at Belfast City Hall as unionist councillors earlier came together to demand a special council meeting to discuss the actions of the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Niall O'Donnghaile.

In a statement issued through Sinn Fein, he said: "As Mayor I have consistently sought to reach out to unionism and loyalist and to be a Mayor for all the people of Belfast.

"My decision to attend the recent Duke of Edinburgh awards ceremony was taken with this in mind.

"I have never and would never go out of my way to cause offence to anyone.

"In any society moving out of conflict we all need to be very conscious of how we deal with sensitive issues," he added.

"Balancing these considerations is not simple. We all need to be tolerant of our different traditions and aspirations.

"I accept that my decision not to present an award to a British Army Cadet has caused genuine annoyance.

"I apologise to anyone who has been offended and in particular the young woman involved and her family. That was clearly never my intention," he concluded.

City Hall officials were today due to be asked for a special meeting by members of the Democratic Unionist Party, Ulster Unionist Party, PUP and independent unionist alderman, Frank McCoubrey.

The demand said: "This council is appalled that the Lord Mayor politicised the Duke of Edinburgh Awards presentation in City Hall on 28th November by refusing to present an award to a young member of the Armed Cadet Forces; affirms that the civic position of Lord Mayor is about representing and respecting everyone within this city and calls on the Lord Mayor to publicly apologise for his actions and the gross offence caused.

"Failure to do so immediately would render his position untenable and he should resign."


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