News

Anger as council mayor snubs Buckingham Palace invitation

Thursday, 11 January 2018

DERG councillor and current Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Maolíosa McHugh, has been slammed for using his casting vote to block an invitation to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party.

Last year, Mayor McHugh made a controversial decision not to meet Prince Charles during his visit to flooding victims in the North West. This latest decision has landed him in hot water with unionist parties again.

Fifteen councillors voted in favour and 15 voted against the invitation at the council on Monday.

The council received the invitation from the Palace to attend the event to celebrate those from the district being named in the New Year's Honours list.

The DUP said it was "shameful" that the Sinn Féin mayor used his casting vote to block the move. Sinn Féin said the mayor's impartiality was not in question.

In a joint statement, a former Mayor of Londonderry Ulster Unionist Councillor, Alderman Mary Hamilton, and Group Leader, Alderman Derek Hussey, have condemned the decision

"The decision of Derry City and Strabane Council to snub an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party is another slap in the teeth for the unionist people of Londonderry and its hinterland.

"In a week where a Sinn Féin MP demonstrated appalling disrespect for the victims of sectarian murder perpetrated by the IRA, and was let off with a slap on the wrist by the Sinn Féin leadership, the decision by another Sinn Féin dominated council to dismiss a Buckingham Palace invitation reinforces what we already knew about that party - Sinn Féin are unwilling and incapable of demonstrating respect to their unionist neighbours or indeed anyone who disagrees with their point of view. Sinn Féin had an opportunity to show some modicum of respect to their unionist neighbours. Instead the Mayor, Maoliosa McHugh, confirmed that he does not actually represent all the people in the council area by using his casting vote to kick the invitation out.

The statement added: "How hard would it have been to pass the invitation to someone within the council who was content to attend? However as usual that isn`t good enough for Sinn Féin. They want to stamp all over the Unionist community. For a party that preaches equality and respect, they have once again demonstrated that they are only a couple of tools for use as part of the republican Trojan horse strategy. Any normal party would hang its head in shame but Sinn Fein isn`t a normal political party. So much for their slogan of 'an Ireland of Equals'. This is the type of equality that Sinn Féin would serve up to Unionists."

DUP councillor David Ramsey said the party "snubs the event, it snubs people who receive awards from her majesty and it snubs Buckingham palace".

The invite came from the Department of Communities and not directly from Buckingham Palace

"It's going against the grain of good relations, something that has been worked hard on for a long number of years in Londonderry. This new mayor has decided that he has other ideas," he said.

 

"We made it clear that it was shameful what the mayor did."

He said the council is considering a "call-in request" because they believe the move is "detrimental to the unionist community".

This is a procedure that can be requested if 15% of councillors believe a decision could adversely affect a section of the community.

A lawyer is then asked to examine the motion and determine whether it should be reconsidered.

However, Sinn Féin councillor Eric McGinley defended Mayor McHugh.

"This isn't an issue about the mayor, the mayor was using his democratic right to use that casting vote. Just to explain, there was an invitation extended to council from the Department of Communities to attend a garden party in Buckingham Palace.

"We were more than willing to accommodate anyone going to Buckingham Palace but the key thing was that it shouldn't be at a cost to the ratepayers.

"To turn this into a witch hunt against the mayor is inappropriate but it seems to be a course of action the DUP are intent on."

Royal Garden Parties are held at Buckingham Palace and at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. They are an opportunity for the Royal Family to meet a cross-section of British society and thank them for various good deeds they have done.

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