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SF against Dungannon condolence book

The funeral of David Black was held in Cookstown last week.

Sinn Féin have voted against a book of condolence for murdered prison officer David Black from being opened in Dungannon.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012
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The motion was put forward at Monday evening's meeting by Ulster Unionist Party councillor Kenneth Reid.

It went through with 13 votes in favour and nine against, and the book has now been opened.

Despite Sinn Féin being opposed to the gesture, because such tributes have previously only been given by the council to those from within the borough, Mayor Phelim Gildernew - a Sinn Féin representative - was the first to sign the book on Tuesday morning.

But Cllr Reid said when he approached Mayor Gildernew the day after Mr Black was gunned down, his request for a book of condolence was turned down.

Mr Black, a married father of two from Cookstown, was ambushed by gunmen on the M1 as he drove to work at Maghaberry prison on Thursday 1 November.

He said it was going to come across to the community that we had opened a book for a Protestant member of the security forces and had not done it for a Catholic member of the security forces.

Kenneth Reid, UUP

Cllr Reid said the mayor had claimed he was against the memorial gesture because no book had been opened for Constable Ronan Kerr, who was killed in a bomb outside his Omagh home, or for Corporal Channing Day, who died in Afghanistan.

He added that Mayor Gildernew referred to the appeal from the Black family that Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness not attend the funeral.

But Cllr Reid said he had asked for the book to be put in place before the family made their request.

"That book would have been in place if it had have been dealt with on Friday, before the announcement was made," the UUP representative said.

It is understood that the council members who voted against opening the book were Sinn Féin councillors and an independent republican representative.

Mayor Gildernew said: "We do not in principle oppose a book of condolence in cases like this, in the appropriate place."

But he disputed whether the town was an "appropriate" place for a book of condolence for Mr Black to be opened.

"In the case of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, the precedent has been that such books are opened for people who live in the district - the two previous cases being Michaela Harte and those killed from the area in 9/11," he said.

David Black had no connection to the Borough of Dungannon and South Tyrone as he lived in neighbouring Cookstown. Throughout the conflict, no such books of condolence were ever opened.

Mayor Phelim Gildernew, Sinn Féin

Cllr Reid said the objection "hurt people who are absolutely devastated and ripped to pieces with the brutal taking of their loving husband and loving father".

The UUP councillor said: "I was so sad in my heart that we had to take this to a meeting and put it to a vote to get a book of condolences.

"That should not happen irrespective of who the person is or the circumstances of any sort of life being taken of someone who was doing a public duty."

Cllr Reid added: "If they wear the Queen's uniform and they're doing their job that is to protect the general public they obviously become a legitimate target."