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SF mayor 'to make history with wreath at cenotaph'

By Donna Deeney

Published 03/11/2015

Elisha McCallion
Elisha McCallion

There is growing speculation the mayor of Derry will become the first Sinn Fein member to lay a wreath at the city's war memorial on Remembrance Sunday.

Elisha McCallion is meeting members of the Royal British Legion today to discuss her possible attendance at the ceremony at the Diamond War Memorial, with an announcement expected later in the day.

It would not be the first time she has laid a wreath to those who died in the Great War. Ms McCallion and party colleague Mitchel McLaughlin broke new ground for Sinn Fein in June when they both attended the 98th commemoration of the Battle of Messines at the memorial.

It was the first time in 14 years the event had been held in Derry, and the first time anyone from Sinn Fein had attended.

At the time Ms McCallion said: "This is an event that commemorates an aspect of our shared history in an inclusive and sensitive manner. I hope that my participation will act as a catalyst to build the peace and reconciliation process necessary to provide a better future for all of our children."

Out of respect for the British Legion, Ms McCallion yesterday declined to confirm whether she would attend.

While Sinn Fein has never attended a Remembrance event in the city, the party has participated in the wreath-laying ceremony in Belfast for a number of years.

The late John Kerr was the first SDLP mayor to lay a wreath at the war memorial in Derry in 1995. Since then the party has been represented at the event.

Former SDLP mayor Gerard Diver said it was time more Catholics attended.

"It is progress in itself that Sinn Fein is even discussing the possibility of attending the war memorial on Sunday, and I would encourage that dialogue," said Mr Driver.

"Over 50% of the names on the war memorial are from a nationalist background, and it makes me sad that more people from a Catholic background do not attend the service.

"I have had many conversations over the years with people from a nationalist background whose relatives are named on the same war memorial, but who for whatever reason do not feel able to attend the service, but they have told me they are pleased that I do go.

"In a poignant way, World War One and Two united the two communities here.

"They fought and died side-by-side, and their commemoration should not be exclusive to one community."

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