Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor commemorates Somme with minute’s silence

The Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor of Belfast will observe a minute’s silence today (Thursday) to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Joe O’Donnell says the gesture shows clearly that republicans are committed to engaging with Protestants and unionists.

Speaking at a press conference at the City Hall yesterday, at which he was accompanied by former Mayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey, Councillor O’Donnell said that he is keen to show that republicans are committed to building bridges.

Mayor of Belfast Tom Ekin will today conduct proceedings at the cenotaph and will lay a wreath.

“It is the Mayor’s responsibility to lay a wreath at the cenotaph on this occasion, and while I considered with other Sinn Féin colleagues laying a wreath as Alex Maskey did during his term as Mayor, we decided it was the Mayor’s responsibility,” said Councillor O’Donnell.

“I will attend the special meeting of the Council in the chamber at 11am when a minute’s silence will be held for those from the 36th Ulster Division who lost their lives,” he added.

Councillor O’Donnell says he believes this level of direct participation to mark the Somme anniversary is appropriate for him as Deputy Mayor of Belfast.

“I believe it is building on the initiatives taken by Alex Maskey during his term as Mayor to reach out to the unionist and Protestant people of Belfast,” he said.

“It clearly shows that republicans are committed to engaging with the unionist and Protestant people and that we are prepared to meet them on common ground, no matter how difficult it is for us as republicans to do so.
“This is what making peace is all about,” he added.

Councillor O’Donnell said that he hopes that one day all sections of the community in the North will feel welcome at the cenotaph.

“I also believe as part of this ongoing commitment by republicans with civic responsibility to mark occasions like the Somme, councils need to establish all-inclusive ceremonies where everyone can participate,” said Councillor O’Donnell.

“The ceremonies will appeal to only one section of the people of this city, those from a unionist and Protestant background,” he added.

The Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor said that discussions are ongoing about civic ceremonies organised by the council to mark the Somme and other similar occasions.

“I believe this is the way forward and I look forward to the day when all the councillors and all the people of Belfast will feel welcome at Belfast’s cenotaph,” he added.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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