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DUP raps Sinn Fein as all its Belfast councillors miss Somme meeting

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein's failure to attend an annual commemoration of the Battle of the Somme in Belfast has been slammed by the DUP.

None of the city's 19 republican councillors turned up for a special annual meeting on July 1 to mark the 101st anniversary of the bloody World War One battle.

Sinn Fein members have attended the meeting in recent years, although the party does not participate in the official wreath-laying ceremony afterwards.

DUP councillor Brian Kingston said it was a "poor show" by Sinn Fein, whose representatives have attended Remembrance and Armistice Day events in recent years.

"I don't know whether this was a premeditated act, but it was surprising that out of 19 councillors none of them was available to pay their respects," he said.

"I thought it was very poor from Sinn Fein.

"There was no explanation as to why they were not there."

In response, Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr said there had been no joint decision by his group not to attend the meeting.

"I honestly don't know why no one was there. There was no directive not to attend," Mr Corr said.

He added that there was no intention to cause offence.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood was present, along with Secretary of State James Brokenshire, Irish Government representative Helen McEntee and representatives from the main Churches.

Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister led the wreath-laying ceremony in the grounds of Belfast City Hall to mark the anniversary of the 141-day battle in which more than a million men were killed or wounded.

There were thousands of casualties from across the island of Ireland.

Around 2,000 of them, from the 36th Ulster Division, died on the first day of the Somme.

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