Calls for Lord Mayor to resign following Army Cadet ‘snub’
Angry politicians and residents across Belfast have called on the Lord Mayor to resign, after he ‘snubbed’ a young female Army Cadet on Monday evening at a Duke of Edinburgh Award ceremony in Belfast’s City Hall.
Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile has defended his refusal to present the teenager with her award just one day before he and councillor Máire Hendron, chair of the Council’s Good Relations Partnership, launched the council’s plan for tackling sectarianism and racism.
Alliance Cllr Hendron said: “We are trying to build a shared future and I am very shocked at what Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile did.
“Being Lord Mayor is about representing and respecting everyone in the city of Belfast and I am deeply annoyed at Niall Ó Donnghaile’s behaviour. The message that this incident sends out is very troubling.”
Among those calling for his resignation was former deputy mayor Alderman William Humphrey, who fumed: “What message has the narrow actions of Belfast’s First Citizen sent to our young people? He talks about inclusion but by his actions practices exclusion. He should consider his position and resign.”
The incident has even been brought up in the House of Commons by north Belfast MP Nigel Dodds who said: “The decision by the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor to refuse to hand out a Duke of Edinburgh Award to a young person simply because they were a member of the Army Cadets is deeply unhelpful to community relations.
“It has been clear from shortly after Mr O Donnghaile took office that his promise to be a “Lord Mayor for everyone” in Belfast was little more than hollow rhetoric.”
East Belfast UUP MLA Michael Copeland said: “The Lord Mayor of Belfast has again fallen short of the standards required to fill the high office of which he has been trusted.
“Following the ill conceived decision he has compounded his position as first citizen of the city of Belfast by snubbing this young army cadet.”
Councillor O Donnghaile responded: “As Lord Mayor I was invited to attend the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in City Hall I agreed to present a number of the awards to the young people in recognition of their endeavours. As an Irish Republican I did not shirk my responsibilities in this instance.
“At the last minute I was informed that one of the awards was to be presented to a representative of the Army Cadet Force. Since becoming Mayor in late May I have attended over 620 engagements, many of them in working class, Unionist |communities.
“In order to avoid any unnecessary sensitivities to either party, it was arranged for the outgoing chairman of the organisation to present some of the certificates alongside me,” he added.