Sinn Féin mayor at Armistice Day event

Published Monday, 11 November 2013
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Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has become the first Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast to attend the Armistice Day commemorations at City Hall.

Sinn Féin mayor at Armistice Day event
SF Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir with DUP deputy mayor Christopher Stalford. (© Presseye)

A two-minute silence was observed at 11am on Monday to mark the end of the First World War - on the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month.

Mr Ó Muilleoir made history as he stood alongside DUP politicians for the tribute.

Afterwards he said he felt the gesture was an important part of his efforts to be a mayor "for all the people of Belfast", as he promised when taking office.

The Sinn Féin man said: "Part of that means reaching out to unionism and today really was about peacemaking towards unionism.

"This is a huge event in the unionist calendar in particular and I wanted to show respect for unionist people and the Protestant people of Belfast by being at the cenotaph on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month."

However he added that the decision had not been easy.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said: "I think it's the most difficult decision I have made in 30 years in politics and community activism. It is a challenge and I think that it had to be done.

"I think the peace and building the peace and building a better Belfast demands that we have to move ourselves into places where we are uncomfortable, which challenge us and which move us into new positions of peacemaking."

President of the Royal British Legion, Mervyn Elder, said it was an important day.

He told UTV: "As far as we are concerned we think it is very nice that the First Citizen honoured us with his presence today and helped us in a significant act of remembrance."

Democratic Unionist deputy mayor Christopher Stalford joined Ó Muilleoir as crowds gathered near the Cenotaph for the act of remembrance.

He welcomed the Lord Mayor's attendance.

DUP councillor Mr Stalford added: "I had always intended to be going to Armistice Day and I am pleased that the lord mayor made the decision that he wanted to go too."

"I think that was a positive and forward step and I hope it is a first step towards Sinn Féin embracing remembrance and all of the events that take place around that."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt also welcomed the move.

He said: "I also hear that the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Máirtin Ó Muilleoir, attended the Armistice service at Belfast City Hall, thus becoming the first Sinn Féin representative to take part in an Armistice Day ceremony at City Hall.

"I consider these gestures important at a time when a generosity of spirit will be required from all political leaders, if we are to succeed in our current efforts to reach agreement on the difficult issues under consideration in the Haass talks process."

In the past Sinn Féin has boycotted November's events due to the association with the British military - but members have laid wreaths for the Battle of the Somme on 1 July.

It comes after First Minister Peter Robinson, along with the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, were among the dignitaries paying tribute to those who died in conflict on Remembrance Sunday.

Wreaths were laid during a service at the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall.

Meanwhile in Enniskillen the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, joined NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers part joined those marking the national day of remembrance in the town.

Twenty-six years ago, 11 people were killed and over 60 were injured in an IRA bomb at the town's War Memorial.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
78 Comments
Paul in Antrim wrote (341 days ago):
Where is my comment? Only posting comments that praise him? One suded ti say the least utv.
Peter in Belfast wrote (341 days ago):
Well Done Máirtín. I'm an SDLP man but I repsect what you did. Let's see the same level of leadership from the Unionist side though I am not holding my breath.
well done mairtin in belfast wrote (342 days ago):
I am a loyalist and I am very happy to see him at the city hall with the rest of the people showing their respect to all of the irish people killed in the war.
Jack in Pitt Park Belfast wrote (342 days ago):
I think that the Lord Mayor showed leadership by attending the City Hall remembrance but never has this been about Protestants or Catholics, this is about remembering brave men who left their homeland to fight fascism they weren't worried about being Unionist or Republican, they fought together as brothers and died as brothers so the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month should be remembered by all without fear of ridicule from anyone and we should all stand as one and think that a step as small as this one could bring a giant leap from another and finally we could all get out of this mess we keep getting ourselves into
time for a change in Canada wrote (343 days ago):
Well done, everyone. One people. One Ireland. Different vision. Separate political values. Different backgrounds. One island on which everyone, though different, can live and grow as one people where all are valued and none disparaged. God bless Ireland, North and South, Unionist and Nationalist, Catholic and Protestant.
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