New Sinn Fein Belfast mayor to consider attending Remembrance Sunday event
Deirdre Hargey said she wanted to be a mayor for all citizens.
Sinn Fein’s new Belfast mayor has said she is willing to consider attending this year’s historic Remembrance Sunday commemoration in the city.
Deirdre Hargey said she wanted to be a mayor for all citizens and would reach out to the Royal British Legion and locally-based Somme Association to discuss ways to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Previous Belfast Sinn Fein mayors have laid laurel wreaths in July to commemorate the Battle of the Somme and at the short ceremony at 11am on November 11, the time of the Armistice in 1918.
But they have yet to attend the fuller Remembrance Sunday event, citing concerns over British military trappings.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald attended a Remembrance Sunday church service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin last year.
It’s important that we use these events to reach out and to build cohesion within the community Deirdre Hargey
“I am mayor for all, that’s for the unionist community, the nationalist community, new communities that have set up home in Belfast, and I want to reflect that in my year in office,” said Ms Hargey.
“I think Belfast City Council have done good work around the Decade of Centenaries programme and I attended many events which wouldn’t have been from my own background per se.”
She added: “I do think it’s important that we use these events to reach out and to build cohesion within the community, that we learn from them.
“There are political narratives and different narratives on what happened in our past and I think that all of those narratives need to be respected.
“What I hope to do is use the learning of that past in building a cohesive and integrated and shared future in the time ahead.
“I will follow suit with other Sinn Fein mayors in the past in terms of the Somme commemoration in July and I would do the same process in terms of paying my respects to that.
“Other commemorations I want to look at – I will look at all of those in detail.
“I will want to pay my respects to all of those who lost their lives in the wars and indeed other conflicts and indeed the political conflict that happened here in Ireland.
“I will address all of those with sensitivity and also in a way of reaching out across the community and representing the community and I will look at those individual issues.
“I am also keen to engage with the likes of the Somme Association, the Royal British Legion, to see if there are events that we can do collectively, that recognises that we do have a political past with different narratives to that past but with a recognition that we need to move forward together and that’s what I aim to do.”
Asked would she consider attending Remembrance Sunday in November, she said: “I will consider all requests that come into the office, yes.”
Ms Hargey, 38, said she wanted to use her year in office to advance rights issues.
She said she hoped she could play a role in delivering abortion reform, same-sex marriage and protections for Irish language speakers.
“I would like to see my year as the mayor for Belfast to enhance those rights, campaign for those rights and be the mayor for equality and rights in Belfast,” she said.
The Sinn Fein councillor said she did not believe the promotion of issues that were the source of political contention in Northern Ireland undermined a commitment to be mayor for all.
“I am the first citizen for all in Belfast and I do think it’s important to reflect all views in the city,” she said.
“That said, I think issues around rights are non-negotiable and I do think as the first citizen I need to stand with those people who are demanding their basic human rights and as the first citizen I will certainly do that.
“There has been a sea change right across this island and people want a rights-based society, so I do hope over my year in office there will be advancement for Irish language rights, for marriage equality rights and for increased healthcare rights for women in terms of access in abortion.
“I do see there are fundamental human rights that as a society we have a duty to implement and push ahead on.
“I will stand with those citizens.”