Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Family issue kept Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness away from First World War service

Absent: Martin McGuinness

Two prominent nationalist politicians have explained why they were unable to attend key First World War memorial services on Monday.

In Belfast, the major events to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war took place at St Anne's Cathedral and the City Hall in the evening.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had been due to attend the service at St Anne's, but did not turn up, leaving his seat – still marked with his name – empty. Last night a spokesman for the Deputy First Minister said that he had been unable to attend and had conveyed his apologies to the Dean of Belfast.

"The Deputy First Minister's intention was to attend the event at St Anne's on Monday night, but as a result of family circumstances he was unable to do so," an OFMDFM spokesman said. "He communicated this and his regret to the Dean of St Anne's, The Very Reverend John Mann."

Sinn Fein has traditionally snubbed war remembrance events.

However, former Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir set a new precedent last year when he attended an Armistice Day event.

Meanwhile, Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon (SDLP) was absent from a candlelit service at the cenotaph at the City Hall on Monday night.

Deputy Lord Mayor Maire Hendron (Alliance) stood in for the Lord Mayor and completed a reading during the service.

Ms Mallon had been representing Belfast at an engagement in Manchester which clashed with the service.

She said she had informed the organisers and asked Ms Hendron to fill in for her. She described missing the event as "unfortunate".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell attended the City Hall event.

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