McGuinness welcomes mayor's apology
The Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast was right to apologise for refusing to present an award to an Army cadet, but politicians should not inflame the issue, Martin McGuinness has said.
He welcomed the decision of Mayor Niall O Donnghaile to attend the Duke of Edinburgh Awards ceremony, but said it was undoubtedly a mistake for him to fail to present an award to the teenage cadet.
The deputy First Minister told the Assembly that all parties faced challenges to stretch beyond their comfort zone, but they had to apologise when mistakes were made. Anger over the incident saw demands by unionists for the mayor to apologise or resign.
Mr McGuinness acknowledged that an apology was necessary, but he also told Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott that politicians should not seek to "make a meal" out of the affair which has already sparked two protests outside City Hall.
The deputy First Minister said: "I welcome very much the fact that the mayor has apologised for what undoubtedly was a mistake. 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 it 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.
"But I think what we all have to do is to continue to stretch out the hand of friendship to each other and not make life difficult for each other, as I am afraid in this circumstance we clearly saw that happen."