Independent Unionist Maurice Devenney has thrown down the gauntlet to the Deputy First Minister over Sinn Fein’s apparent u-turn over the refurbishment of the city’s war memorial.
Incensed by the recorded vote at the full meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council to halt work to draw down funding to refurbish the war memorials in Londonderry, Strabane and Castlederg, Mr Devenney challenged Martin McGuinness to come clean with the European War Commission if he accepts an invite later this year to visit the Somme to pay tribute to The Fallen of WWI.
“Sinn Fein and the SDLP voted in favour of halting the restoration process with 25 in favour of stopping, 10 against and one abstention,” said Mr Devenney.
“The issue was raised by SF’s Paul Fleming, and when questioned he admitted it was about the sourcing of funding and he asked for it to be referred back to the committee working group. At the time of the old council I had proposed that the War Memorial in the Diamond be refurbished for 2016 to mark the Centenary of The Somme and it received unanimous support. The then council began the process of costings and accessing funding.
“We were informed it would cost £250,000 for the war memorial in The Diamond and it was hoped to draw down funding from The Department of Social Development and the War Museum, with a reduced cost to the council of £150,000. The recommendation was put forward and work was progressing until now.
“All I can say is that I am angry and disappointed by what has happened, particularly given that every party in the Council Chamber has visited or laid a wreath at The Diamond War memorial.
“The decision by SF and the SDLP to do a u-turn is an insult to the fallen of The Somme and their families, both Catholic and Protestant, and I challenge Martin McGuinness, if he accepts the invited to visit The Somme later this year, to explain how, if SF are so respectful of those who gave their lives for peace 100 years ago, that they have halted a process of refurbishment of the War Memorial in his own home city.”