The Right Honourable, the Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile…

According to a UTV report, Sinn Féin Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, Lord Mayor of Belfast, was at Belfast City Hall on Monday evening handing out Northern Ireland Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards to “over 166 young people”, between the aged of 14 and 24, “from all backgrounds”.  Almost.  From the UTV report

During the service at Belfast City Hall on Monday evening, the Lord Mayor stopped presenting the certificates to the group when it became clear that one of the recipients was a representative of the Army Cadet Force. [added link]

Instead Gordon Topping, Chair of the Duke of Edinburgh Advisory Committee, finished the presentation.

Councillor Ó Donnghaile said he stepped down in order not to “shirk” his responsibilities “as an Irish Republican”.

As the quote from DUP Cllr Gavin Robinson notes

The irony is that he agreed to present the awards at all. The Duke of Edinburgh is Colonel in Chief of the Cadet Forces.

The Army Cadet website adds that the around 45,000 cadets involved are aged 12-18.

The BBC report quotes Cllr Ó Donnghaile

Mr O Donnghaile said he was told “at the last minute” that an award was to be presented to a cadet force member.

He said someone else then joined him to present the certificates.

Mr O Donnghaile said he would be happy to meet the cadet and her family to explain his decision.

He said it was “nothing personal”.

“At the last minute I was informed that one of the awards was to be presented to a representative of the Army cadet force,” Mr O Donnghaile added.

“In order to avoid any unnecessary sensitivities to either party, it was arranged for the outgoing chairman of the organisation to present some of the certificates alongside me.”

And a spokesperson for the Duke of Edinburgh awards

A spokesperson for the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme said its silver award presentations for Northern Ireland had been held at City Hall in Belfast for more than 20 years, and that “each year the awards are presented by the lord mayor”.

“The Army cadet force is one of a large number of youth organisations in Northern Ireland which makes the Duke of Edinburgh programme available to all young people,” they said.

“We are deeply saddened that this incident has overshadowed the tremendous achievement and voluntary contribution to the community by all young people who received awards on the evening.”

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  • Alias

    “Balancing these considerations is not simple. We all need to be tolerant of our different traditions and aspirations. I accept that my decision not to present an award to a British Army Cadet has caused genuine annoyance. I apologise to anyone who has been offended and in particular the young woman involved and her family. That was clearly never my intention.”

    Well, at least he now recognises that his sectarian discrimination was unacceptable behaviour for a Lord Mayor, and has duly apologised for it.

    What he hasn’t said, however, it that he will not repeat his behaviour in a similiar situation or if he simply intends to ensure that teenage cadets are no where in sight for the duration of his tenure…

  • What he hasn’t said, however, it that he will not repeat his behaviour in a similiar situation

    Alias,
    That is more or less what I implied when I said that he will be judged eventually on the totality of his actions. Time will tell.

  • Mike the First

    TS

    I meant voluntary organisation as in not the armed forces, not as in they are volunteer soldiers as opposed to conscripts.

  • Mike the First

    Oh dear oh dear.

    http://judecollinsjournalist.blogspot.com/

    Jude Collins is claiming on his blog that the Army Cadet Force is “an organization where people are taught to kill other people – with guns, with grenades, with tanks, with rockets, with bombs”.

    This is not just idiotic, this is dangerous nonsense – he really should retract this, ASAP.

  • Mike the First

    Interesting, by the way, how Jude Collins had picked up Sinn Fein’s language on this (“British Army cadet”) and simply run with it.

  • Mick Fealty

    He seems to have had the gender wrong too at the beginning.

  • Mike the First

    Well spotted Mick. Perhaps Collins didnt put a lot of thought into this before rushing something out.

  • Reader

    Jude Collins (quote) : an organization where people are taught to kill other people – with guns, with grenades, with tanks, with rockets, with bombs
    Not in my recollection. In the 1970s, as a cadet, training was a triangle. Corner 1 – wandering around the countryside with maps and radios, eating dodgy rations. Corner 2 – drilling in the school playground. Corner 3 – one day a year on the rifle range at summer camp in England. There were never any weapons on school premises. The most fun I ever had was on the assault course, which is basically free running with boots on. Never saw a grenade, tank or rocket.
    I suppose, in the real army, in the middle of that triangle, there would be battle drill, but we never did any of that. So I expect in the real world African child soldiers (for instance) would have just rolled over us, scarcely noticing. Even on the one day a year we ever touched real ammunition.
    Now, if Jude is a real pacifist, he can of course look down on most of the rest of Ireland. But if he isn’t a pacifist he really ought to consider the benefits of close connections between the army and civilian life. He could always make connections to a different army if the doesn’t like the one that’s already here.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Kids will be queuing up to join now Jude’s told them they get to play with tanks.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Reader

    I was a cadet nearly 40 years ago. You are spot on with your discription of what cadets do. Good fun with a bit of disipline thrown in. It didn’t turn me into a killer.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just heard the whole event was delayed 45 minutes while The Mayor called base for further instructions. As Máirtín said this morning no one in SF will be putting this on their CVs.

  • Little James

    When you say “event” Mick I take it you mean the DoE award ceremony?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes.

  • orly

    Taxi for Niall I think.

    Time to go.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    It was a very Sinn Fein apology, was it not: trying to sound liberal and generous, without actually being so. It falls short of the minimum standard we expect from public officials, so he still has to resign. To explain why, here’s what he said again, my comments in square brackets:

    “Balancing these considerations is not simple.” [No, it IS simple. Your views about the army, let alone the cadets, were irrelevant to giving this lass her award. There was nothing to ‘balance’]
    “We all need to be tolerant of our different traditions and aspirations. I accept that my decision not to present an award to a British Army Cadet has caused genuine annoyance” [In other words, I do not dispute the fact that people are annoyed, but I don’t necessarily think they had any reason to be].
    “I apologise to anyone who has been offended and in particular the young woman involved and her family. [So I apologise that people were offended; but I am not acknowledging I was wrong. My fault, if there is any, is only that I should foreseen people might misunderstand my perfectly good decision. So I accept the blame for annoying people but it’s something I have to do and still think is right; I’m not apologising for doing anything wrong.]
    “That was clearly never my intention.” [‘Clearly’ is an interesting word to use in the context of trying to explain something away as a misunderstanding. He’s also basically saying, as long as I don’t intend to offend anyone, then it’s fine. It’s as if, in his crampled little mind, Republican ‘principles’ (ahem) bend for no one.

    As Alias said, it looks like he’s not ruling out doing the same thing again. So it’s a no-brainer that he has to go.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    by crampled I meant cramped, btw – apologies. Maybe I was thinking of the crumbling of his nascent career. In Northern Ireland of all places, we should have zero tolerance for people bringing that kind of nonsense into public life. But being Northern Ireland, I’m sure he’ll survive.

    How an IRA apologist can get on his high horse about a cadet, after what the IRA put us all through for 30 years, is beyond me. He has no shame, it seems.

  • Alias

    It’s a standard qualified apology: apologising for any offence that his action caused but not apologising for his action. The trick relies on people failing to notice that the apology is qualified, and isn’t really an apology ay all.

  • fordprefect

    Excuse me, but didn’t SF condemn the killing of the two soldiers at Massereene Barracks, join the Policing Board ( the cops are still armed), joined the DPP’s, issued heartfelt sympathy to the people of Britain over the death of Diana (through AP/RN) Diana was also commander in chief of a few British Army regiments and Martin McGuinness said he would have no problem meeting the queen if he was elected president of “Ireland”. The queen is the head of all the British armed forces. Why didn’t he just present the wee girl with the certificate, seeing as he has more in common with her than he has with any other Irish Republican?