Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness: Lord Mayor's Army cadet snub was wrong

Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile
Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile

By Patrice Dougan

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said the decision by Belfast’s Lord Mayor not to present an award to an Army cadet was a mistake.

Sinn Fein’s Niall O Donnghaile shunned the young cadet at a Duke of Edinburgh awards ceremony at the City Hall last week.

On Monday night Belfast City Council accepted an apology from the First Citizen.

In response to a question in the Assembly from Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott, Mr McGuinness yesterday welcomed the apology.

The Sinn Fein deputy leader said Mr O Donnghaile’s decision nine days ago not to present the teenager with the award was “undoubtedly a mistake”. But he said the young Mayor had made a “clear commitment” that the mistake would not be repeated.

Mr McGuinness welcomed the fact that Mr O Donnghaile had attended the ceremony, but said politicians should not “make a meal” out of the affair which has already sparked two protests outside City Hall, as well as calls for the Mayor to resign.

The Deputy First Minister told the Assembly that all parties faced challenges which would push them beyond their comfort zone, but they had to apologise when mistakes were made.

“I welcome very much the fact

that the Mayor has apologised for what undoubtedly was a mistake,” he said.

“And I think there is a very clear commitment that that will not be repeated.

“I do think that people should resist the temptation to try to inflame the situation any more than is required, and I think there was some of that over the course of the last couple of days.

“But the important thing to do, whenever someone makes a mistake, is to put your hand up and to apologise.

“As far as I am concerned the Mayor was big enough, in the first instance, to attend the Duke of Edinburgh awards presentation.

“But in the second instance, whenever he quite clearly acknowledged his mistake, he put his hands up and made it clear that he should apologise and he did apologise, and the apology, I believe, was fulsome.

“So I do think it is sensible for all of us now to not make a meal of it, but to move on and to understand that in certain circumstances, as we all go forward, all of us will be challenged around different issues that create concern to constituents.”

More than 50 loyalists protested outside Belfast City Hall while a special meeting was held on Monday night.

The council voted to recognise the Lord Mayor’s apology, and it was passed 29 to 19.

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