Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's Sinn Fein mayor at Presbyterian General Assembly

By Alf McCreary

The new Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast continued his mission to reach out to all communities last night.

Niall O Donnghaile entered the Presbyterian religious heartland by attending the opening of the General Assembly in Church House.

Mr O Donnghaile is the second Sinn Fein Lord Mayor to attend the opening night ceremony.

Alex Maskey created a controversy as the first republican mayor to do so in 2002.

Last night the current Lord Mayor was seated in the front row with representatives of the Queen and police as one of 1,200 invited guests and delegates attending the Assembly from all parts of Ireland.

Despite the recent row over the appointment of Sinn Fein activist Mary McArdle as a special adviser to Stormont's Culture minister, there was no reference in the main speeches to current political developments, apart from the ongoing need for better community relations.

The outgoing Moderator, Dr Norman Hamilton, also warned of the need to maintain good relationships within the churches themselves.

He said: "I am very alarmed at the ease with which many of God's people fall out with each other, or with their minister or even with their own families.

"Sometimes there are internal rows, sometimes it becomes very public without any gracious conversation."

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