Belfast mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir accused of 'convenient absence' on Remembrance Day
The DUP has accused Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir of not living up to his words over reaching out to unionists.
He will not be attending either the presentation of Duke of Edinburgh awards at City Hall on Friday or the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the cenotaph.
A council spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph last night that the Lord Mayor will be visiting the United States and will therefore be out of the country both for the presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh awards on Friday and for Remembrance Sunday.
Two years ago, then Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile was criticised for refusing to present a young Army cadet with her Duke of Edinburgh award.
Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford is expected to stand in for councillor O Muilleoir at both events.
Councillor Lee Reynolds said the two events were the latest in a series that the Lord Mayor has missed, including the launch of the RAF appeal, the Festival of Remembrance at the Waterfront Hall, the launch of the Garden of Remembrance cross appeal, and he also did not attend the council's annual trip to the Somme war graves.
"This is the latest in a series of events which the Lord Mayor has been conveniently out of the country and unable to attend," he claimed.
"There has been a lot of talk about outreach but no action."
When Mr O Muilleoir took up the post of Lord Mayor in June, he revealed that he was in negotiations with the Royal British Legion about attending Remembrance Sunday on behalf of the council.
It is also understood that he was in negotiations about visiting the battlefields in France.
He said that his great grandfather died at the Somme and his funeral was one of the last British military funerals to take place on the Falls Road in 1916.
In September, the Lord Mayor said he supported a British Legion request to illuminate the City Hall in red on October 24 for the Poppy Appeal launch in the interests of "building peace", but said he could not wear a poppy.
A council source told the Belfast Telegraph that the move to turn the City Hall red would have been passed anyway with the support of unionists and the Alliance Party.
Earlier this month, SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy welcomed Mr O Muilleoir's promise of council support "in the spirit of reconciliation and inclusiveness". However, he challenged Mr O Muilleoir to go even further by attending the actual ceremony.
When Alex Maskey became the first Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2002, he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph before the Somme memorial service in July but did not take part.