Belfast’s Republican Lord Mayor is to leave office ahead of schedule – to avoid celebrating the Queen of England’s diamond jubilee landmark.
Sinn Fein member Niall O Donnghaile has confirmed he will leave office and allow the Unionist DUP candidate to lead the June celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee.
The new Mayor, believed to be Gavin Robinson, will be elected on June 1st ahead of the planned celebrations to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the English throne.
Sinn Fein group party leader on Belfast City Council, Jim McVeigh, told reporters: “We knew that the Jubilee celebrations were coming up and had a discussion with the DUP about that.
“We were happy to come out of that role and they were happy to come in a little bit early because of the issue of the anniversary.
The Queen is due to visit Northern Ireland as part of the jubilee celebrations and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, also deputy Sinn Fein leader, had also said he was prepared to consider meeting her if he had been elected President of Ireland.
But McVeigh added: “We as republicans obviously are not keen to celebrate the Jubilee in any shape or form. But, we have supported the recent round of funding when it came before council and we are happy for unionists to celebrate if they so wish.
“But, it is not something that we would be involved in as republicans.
“This is as much about accommodating the unionists as about us not wanting to be part of the Jubilee celebrations. We are republicans and have no great love for the royalty in any shape or form. We do not want to be part of the celebrations.
“A unionist Mayor would love to be on that seat when a member of the Royalty or maybe even the Queen herself comes to Belfast.”
Some Unionists have described the latest Sinn Fein move as a ‘snub’ to the English monarch.
“It is definitely a snub,” said former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers, speaking to the Irish Independent. “It is unfortunate in view of what the Deputy First Minister said last year — that he would meet the Queen.
“When I was Lord Mayor I met a wide range of people from both sides. I was criticised both publicly and privately for it - but I believe you have to lead to the city and you have to be above politics.
“Unfortunately this current Lord Mayor has been one of the most political that I can remember in more than 20 years in council.”
DUP deputy Lord Mayor Ruth Patterson said: “I thought that the current Lord Mayor would have learned a severe lesson from when he refused to present an Army cadet with a certificate last December.”