Speaking today at a press conference in his City Hall parlour, Deputy Mayor of Belfast Cllr. Joe O'Donnell outlined his plans for this years annual Somme Commemoration events. Cllr. O'Donnell was joined by the former Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey.
Cllr. O'Donnell said:
" As Deputy Mayor of Belfast I would like to outline how I will be participating in the City Council's ceremony to mark tomorrow‚s anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
" The Mayor Tom Eakin will conduct the proceedings at the cenotaph and will lay a wreath.
" I will attend the special meeting of the Council in the Chamber at 11am where a minute‚s silence will be held for those from the 36th Ulster Division who lost their lives.
" I believe this level of direct participation to mark the Somme anniversary is appropriate for me 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.
" 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.
" I decided to participate in the Council meeting because I am keen to show the continued commitment that republicans in this city have to building bridges into the unionist and protestant community.
" 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.
" Tomorrow's ceremonies will appeal to only one section of the people of this city, those from a unionist and protestant background.
" I know the P&R are currently discussing a civic ceremony 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." ENDS