Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein Mayor replaces Royal portrait with 1916 Proclamation

By Lesley-Anne Henry

A portrait of the Queen has been replaced with a framed copy of the 1916 Proclamation at Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The picture is among a number of artworks depicting members of the Royal family to have been moved or taken down from the Lord Mayor's parlour since Sinn Fein's Niall O'Donnghaile was elected three weeks ago.

It is understood the painting of the Queen and another of Prince Philip have been shifted to a less-prominent position within the civic office, while two other illustrations of the Queen Mother and Prince Charles have been removed. An image depicting the 1798 rebellion by the United Irishmen has been hung in their place.

In a statement Mr O'Donnghaile said the move was designed to make the Lord Mayor's parlour more inclusive.

However, it has sparked fury among unionists.

"Her Majesty the Queen Mother was a much-loved public figure across the community," said DUP councillor Christopher Stalford.

"The removal of her portrait from the Mayor's parlour will cause hurt throughout Belfast.

"The Prince of Wales is much respected for his work with children and young people through the Prince's Trust, which has worked to empower many young people from disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland. The removal of his portrait will compound that sense of hurt.

"I would appeal to the Lord Mayor to show maturity and leadership and reverse this decision. It's not good enough to make platitudes about being a Lord Mayor for everyone when you back them up with exclusionary actions such as the moving of these portraits and erecting a copy of the 1916 Proclamation."

A row over memorabilia has been ongoing at Belfast City Hall for some time. Sinn Fein has requested an equality impact assessment into the flying of the Union flag and the results are expected to be presented at a committee meeting next Friday.

The Lord Mayor said: "The changes I have made create a shared and inclusive space. It is a space which those visiting the parlour can relax in and see their cultural identity reflected."

In 2002 the then Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Alex Maskey caused a furore when he unveiled a tricolour alongside the Union flag in the parlour.

The 1916 Proclamation usually hangs in Sinn Fein party offices.

Background

The 1916 Proclamation was issued by the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising in Dublin, which began on April 24, 1916.

In it the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, styling itself the "Provisional Government of the Irish Republic", proclaimed Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom.

The reading of the proclamation by Patrick Pearse outside the GPO marked the Rising's beginning. The proclamation was modelled on a declaration issued during the 1803 rebellion by Robert Emmet.

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