Monday 19 November 2018

Sinn Fein mayor snubs Prince Charles on his visit to flood-hit communities in Derry

The Prince of Wales waves to well-wishers outside the Eglinton Community Centre in Londonderry during a visit to communities hit by the summer's flash floods. Photo: Laura Hutton/PA Wire
The Prince of Wales waves to well-wishers outside the Eglinton Community Centre in Londonderry during a visit to communities hit by the summer's flash floods. Photo: Laura Hutton/PA Wire

A Sinn Fein mayor has refused to meet Prince Charles on his visit to Derry.

Explaining the snub, Maoliosa McHugh cited Charles's links to the Parachute Regiment, whose soldiers were responsible for the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972.

The Prince, who holds the role of Colonel in Chief of the regiment, was in the city on Friday to visit communities hit by summer flooding. He has visited the city on a number of previous occasions.

Other senior Sinn Fein members have met and shaken hands with Charles in the past, including party president Gerry Adams.

In January 1972, soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators, killing 13 people. A 14th victim died months later in hospital.

A long-running public inquiry found that the killings were unjustified and the dead posed no threat when they were shot. Then-prime minister David Cameron subsequently apologised for the actions of the regiment on the day.

Mr McHugh, Mayor of Derry and Strabane, said meeting Charles in the city would be "premature", given the "unresolved sensitives" around Bloody Sunday.

Prosecutors in Northern Ireland are currently assessing whether to charge 18 former paras in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday. They are also due to examine files of evidence related to two former Official IRA members.

Mr McHugh said: "As a Sinn Fein elected representative and Mayor of Derry and Strabane, I am fully committed to reconciliation and to reaching out to the Unionist community.

"I also recognise the positive contribution made by members of the British Royal Family to the search for reconciliation and the need for greater understanding of the different narratives, which exist here.

"Today's visit to Derry by Prince Charles is difficult for many families in the city given his ongoing role as Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment.

"And while I have supported meetings between Sinn Fein and members of the British Royal Family, I believe that meeting him in Derry is premature given the ongoing and unresolved sensitivities around the legacy of the massacre carried out by that regiment."

Deputy Mayor John Boyle, of the SDLP, met Charles during his engagements in the north-west.

Press Association

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