Belfast Telegraph

Uproar as councillors vote to snub Palace invitation

By Leona O'Neill

Derry City and Strabane councillors last night voted to snub an invitation to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party this summer, sparking unionist uproar.

The council received an invitation from the Palace to attend an event to celebrate those from the district being named on the Queen's New Year's Honour's List.

But a confidential council meeting at Derry's Guildhall ended in uproar when a motion calling for the Sinn Fein mayor, the SDLP deputy mayor or a chairperson from one of the committees to accept the invite was voted down - resulting in the invitation being ignored.

A motion was initially brought forward by Sinn Fein's Eric McGinley proposing that if anyone wanted to attend they could do so and pay for it themselves, but that they would not be officially representing the council.

The proposal was amended by SDLP councillor Martin Reilly to accept the invite and, as in the past, if the mayor or deputy mayor couldn't attend, a chairperson from one of the committees could do so on behalf of the council.

When the amendment was voted on, 15 members voted for and 15 against - leaving Mayor Maoliosa McHugh with the casting vote. He voted against it, resulting in catcalls of "shame" and "where's your respect?" from unionists.

DUP councillor David Ramsey says he was "disgusted at the disrespect shown".

"An invitation was forwarded from Buckingham Palace for their garden party and council have refused that invitation," he said. "Now, no one from this council will be represented at that event even though we have people from our jurisdiction who have received awards, MBEs etc, during the New Year period.

"This is against all that we stand for in this council - diversity and respect and tolerance. The mayor, in the manner he spoke, making it clear that he would not be attending, was extremely disrespectful to me as a unionist person and indeed to most people in this city who are trying to embrace equality going forward.

"This is not only a snub to Buckingham Palace, but to the entire unionist community."

Mr McHugh was not available for comment last night.

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