Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein Mayor of Derry snubs Prince Charles during Northern Ireland Royal visit

By Claire Williamson

The Mayor of Derry will not meet Prince Charles on Friday during the Royal visit to areas affected by recent flooding.

In a statement Sinn Fein Councillor Maolíosa McHugh said his decision was down to legacy issues.

Mr McHugh said the meeting would be "premature" due to the Prince of Wales' role as Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment.

Thirteen people were killed on January 30 1972 by members of the Parachute Regiment after soldiers opened fire on a civil rights march in Londonderry.

Another victim of the shootings died months later.

In a statement Mr McHugh said: “As a Sinn Fein elected representative, and Mayor of Derry and Strabane I am fully committed to reconciliation and to reaching out to the unionist community. I also recognise the positive contribution made by members of the British Royal family to the search for reconciliation and the need for greater understanding of the different narratives, which exist here.

“Today’s visit to Derry by Prince Charles is difficult for many families in the city given his ongoing role as Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment.

"And while I have supported meetings between Sinn Fein and members of the British Royal family, I believe that meeting him in Derry is premature given the ongoing and unresolved sensitivities around the legacy of the massacre carried out by that Regiment. Therefore, the Deputy Mayor will deputise for me today.”

In 2016 the late Martin McGuinness met the Prince of Wales at Hillsborough Castle.

Prince Charles held separate meetings with the then First Minister Arlene Foster and the former deputy First Minister.

In 2017 Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams also met and shook hands with Prince Charles in May 2017 during his visit to the Republic of Ireland.

They first met in May 2015 where they shared a historic handshake during a visit to the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he shook hands with Mr Adams over a cup of tea.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Adams told reporters: "I said 'cead mile failte aris'.

"I told him in Irish and English that it was good he was back in Ireland."

On Friday DUP MP Gregory Campbell accused the Sinn Fein mayor of "retreating to the backwoods of republicanism".

Mr Campbell said: “Over two years ago Gerry Adams met with Prince Charles. He and Martin McGuinness were able to spend twenty minutes in a private meeting with him. Only six months ago Mr Adams shared a handshake with Prince Charles on the final day of his tour of the Republic of Ireland.

"Today, the Sinn Fein Mayor of Londonderry is retreating to the comfort of backwoods republicanism. We hear a great deal from republicans about respect and criticisms of unionism for not reaching out to recognise other cultures and traditions.

"It is clear however that Maoliosa McHugh does not believe such responsibilities extend to him. He has no problem putting on the Mayoral chain to visit a dissident republican in prison but cannot represent the citizens of Londonderry when someone such as Prince Charles visits the city."

DUP MLA Gary Middleton added: “The focus on Prince Charles’ association with the Parachute Regiment is yet more republican double standards. Sinn Fein are the first to criticise anyone who dare bring up the activities of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry or anywhere else.

"Indeed, they regularly lambast anyone who cannot forget their role in a campaign of terrorism which of course included the murder of two Police officers just before Bloody Sunday.

"It would be very useful to know what the views of other more senior members of Sinn Fein take on this calculated snub. Do the actions of Mr McHugh have the backing and support of his party?”

On Friday Prince Charles spoke with those caught up in the downpours in August in which homes were flooded, cars washed into rivers and infrastructure badly damaged.

Charles visited the YMCA Londonderry at Drumahoe and Eglinton Community Centre on the outskirts of Derry.

Some residents remain in temporary housing after the storms hit Northern Ireland on August 22 with 63% of the area's average rainfall for that month falling within a nine-hour period.

The resulting floods left 120 people in need of rescue and damaged 510 properties.

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