Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Cadet row: Sinn Fein mayor told 'apologise or resign'

Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile
Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile
Mayor of Belfast Niall O Donnghaile

Unionists on Belfast City Council have called for the Lord Mayor to publicly apologise for failing to present an award to a young Army cadet — or resign.

Sinn Fein’s Niall O Donnghaile pulled out of presenting Duke of Edinburgh Awards halfway through the event earlier this week to avoid interacting with the 14-year-old girl.

He said he stepped aside to avoid raising any sensitivities.

It is understood all 21 unionist councillors signed a document requesting the Lord Mayor attend a special meeting to discuss the incident. It will be presented to senior council officials today.

The ‘summons’ — which has no legal force — reads: “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.”

It continued to say “failure to do so immediately would render his position untenable and he should resign”.

According to Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rogers, the issue is likely to be raised during the monthly council meeting this evening — to be broadcast on the internet for the first time.

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

"At the last minute I was informed that one of the awards was to be presented to a representative of the Army cadet force," Mr O Donnghaile added.

"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.

"I take my responsibilities as being a mayor for all very seriously."

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