SF vote against giv­ing Free­dom of Drogheda to Sea­mus Mal­lon

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY VIC­TO­RIA LEONARD

SINN Fein coun­cil­lors voted against for­mer Deputy First Min­is­ter Sea­mus Mal­lon be­ing granted the Free­dom of Drogheda be­cause they thought it was “wrong to el­e­vate only one per­son in­volved in the peace process”.

Drogheda Sinn Fein coun­cil­lor Joanna Byrne spoke out af­ter she and party col­leagues Ken­neth Flood and David Sau­rin op­posed the mo­tion.

Mr Mal­lon (81, right) was in­volved in the civil rights move­ment dur­ing the Six­ties and served as the deputy leader of the SDLP from 1979 to 2001. He was also Stor­mont’s Deputy First Min­is­ter from 1998 to 2001.

Mr Mal­lon is one of the ar­chi­tects of the Good Fri­day Agree­ment, hav­ing helped bro­ker the 1998 ac­cord, and will be awarded the Free­dom of the Bor­ough of Drogheda on June 8.

At Mon­day’s meet­ing of Louth County Coun­cil, Deputy Mayor Richie Cul­hane read out a state­ment in the ab­sence of Mayor Pio Smith.

It re­port­edly said: “I am happy to of­fer the Free­dom of Drogheda to Sea­mus Mal­lon as I be­lieve that he is a pa­triot in the true sense of the word and has worked to unite Protes­tant, Catholic and dis­senter like a true repub­li­can.

“Mal­lon was a straight talker and his goal in pol­i­tics and life was to progress so­ci­ety in a man­ner that ben­e­fited all.

“Hav­ing a go at other po­lit­i­cal par­ties or communities for the sake of it was not his style. In­stead, he tack­led is­sues like in­equal­ity, Ir­ish unity, lack of hous­ing and un­em­ploy­ment, and he did this for both Catholic and Protes­tant.

“All peo­ple who live on the is­land of Ire­land owe Sea­mus Mal­lon a deep debt of grat­i­tude for the sig­nif­i­cant role he played in en­gen­der­ing hope in a time of de­spair and in help­ing to cre­ate new and bet­ter in­ter com­mu­nal re­la­tion­ships on this is­land.” How­ever, Ms Byrne told the Belfast Tele­graph that she and her party col­leagues “didn’t feel it was right” to hon­our Mr Mal­lon in this way. “From a Sinn Fein per­spec­tive, we thought it was wrong to el­e­vate only one per­son in­volved

n the peace process,” she said. “If you are go­ing to ac­knowl­edge one, ac­knowl­edge them all. “We didn’t feel it was right.

“Plenty of peo­ple played their part in civil rights and en­sur­ing peace on this is­land.

“We didn’t sound our opin­ion, and we didn’t say any­thing neg­a­tive.

“I un­der­stand that the Free­dom of the Bor­ough is usu­ally given to one per­son.”

SDLP Newry and Ar­magh MLA Justin Mc­Nulty wel­comed the hon­our for Mr Mal­lon.

“I wel­come the move by Mayor Pio Smith, of­fer­ing Sea­mus Mal­lon free­dom of Drogheda,” Mr Mc­Nulty said. “It is how­ever dis­ap­point­ing to see Sinn Fein vote this mo­tion down.

“Sea­mus Mal­lon was a key player in bring­ing peace to the North.

“It is only right that he be hon­oured in this way.

“As the for­mer MLA for my own con­stituency of Newry and Ar­magh, it fills me with much pride but, more im­por­tantly, hope that the pol­i­tics of the SDLP is recog­nised and the sac­ri­fice of our lead­ers re­mem­bered.”

Other dig­ni­taries to re­ceive the free­dom of Drogheda in­clude No­bel Peace Prize win­ner John Hume and Pope John Paul II.

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