Sinn Féin opposes honour for Seamus Mallon
Sinn Féin has been branded "vindictive" and "small minded" for trying to block an attempt to bestow a prestigious honour on Northern Ireland civil rights campaigner Seamus Mallon.
Sinn Féin councillors in Gerry Adams's Co Louth constituency voted against giving the former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland the freedom of Drogheda.
Mayor of Drogheda Pio Smith, a Labour Party councillor, proposed conferring Mr Mallon with the freedom of the town in recognition of his work for the civil rights movement in the North.
The former SDLP deputy leader was adamantly opposed to the IRA's reign of terror during the Troubles.
At a Drogheda Borough District Council meeting yesterday a vote was held on a motion proposing to honour Mr Mallon, but Sinn Féin's councillors voted against the proposal. The vote was carried with a two-thirds majority.
Louth-based Labour Party Senator Ged Nash said Sinn Féin's decision to block the honour for Mr Mallon was part of a "shameless campaign to re-write history".
"The decision by Sinn Féin to oppose the conferring of the Freedom of Drogheda to prominent former SDLP politician, civil rights campaigner and lifelong opponent of political violence, Seamus Mallon, is a vindictive, petty and small-minded political act," Mr Nash said
"This approach is designed to shoehorn themselves and the Provisional IRA into the civil rights narrative and to completely airbrush the SDLP and the honourable tradition of constitutional nationalism out of our recent political history," he added.
Mr Nash said Mr Mallon will be the 34th person to get the honour.
Previous recipients of the honour include SDLP leader John Hume, President Michael D Higgins and former President Éamon de Valera.
"Never before has the council divided on the conferring of the Freedom of the Borough," Mr Nash said.
"The awarding of the Freedom of Drogheda should not be used as a means to settle scores with political adversaries, particularly against towering figures like Seamus Mallon who consistently pursued the aim of peace and genuine reconciliation on this Ireland through entirely peaceful and non-violent means," he added.
Mr Smith said Mr Mallon represented all the people of the North "regardless of their religion".
Fine Gael councillor Richie Culhane said he was "disappointed" that Sinn Féin broke with tradition and voted against the decision as a party, adding: "The work Seamus Mallon has done is widely recognised and he really laid the foundations for the peace process."
Sinn Féin group leader for Louth County Council Tomás Sharkey said he was "unaware" of the decision to vote against the honour for Mr Mallon.
However, the Sinn Féin press office defended the party's opposition.
"Sinn Féin councillors in Louth voted against the Freedom of Drogheda for Seamus Mallon as they felt it was wrong to elevate one person who was involved in the peace process above all the others who were also important to ensuring a lasting peace in Ireland," a spokesperson said.