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11 November 2004 Edition

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Day of Reflection to remember all war dead

Séan Clarke (Omagh), Patsy Croogan (Magherafelt), Gearóid Ó hÉara (Derry), Gerry McHugh (Fermanagh) and Jarlath McNulty (Strabane)

Séan Clarke (Omagh), Patsy Croogan (Magherafelt), Gearóid Ó hÉara (Derry), Gerry McHugh (Fermanagh) and Jarlath McNulty (Strabane)

Sinn Féin will hold civic ceremonies throughout the Six Counties remembering all those who died during the conflict and the two world wars on 10 December, International Human Rights day. At a press conference in Belfast on Tuesday, five of the party's mayors and chairs in the Six Counties, Gearóid Ó hEára (Derry), Jarlath McNulty (Strabane), Seán Clarke (Omagh), Gerry McHugh (Fermanagh) and Patsy Groogan (Magherafelt), announced a series of events to be held in their districts on that day.

The bold initiative is being called a Day of Reflection and each man spoke of the support they have been receiving for the initiative from both nationalists and unionists in their areas.

Describing the day as a challenge to the whole community and an essential part of the healing process, Mayor of Derry Gearóid Ó hEára said the day was intended to build upon the important work initiated by Alex Maskey during his term as Mayor of Belfast.

"This is a sincere, authentic tribute to all those who have lost their lives as a result of war and conflict and for all those who still live with the pain and memory of that loss", he said, adding that the civic ceremonies "would not include political or military symbols and would attempt to include as many people as possible, including members of the crown forces".

He said that people from unionist backgrounds had been in contact with him and had expressed their support for the day. However no one from what he described as, "political unionism", had voiced their support or intention to attend the December ceremonies.

Endorsing the plans, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the party's mayors and chairs throughout the Six Counties are guided in their role of providing civic leadership by a commitment to equality and to tackling difficult and divisive issues. "It is about facing up to the challenge of building peace and engagement between people of different faiths and traditions," he said.

Seán Clarke, Chair of Omagh District Council, echoed this sentiment, saying that the day's events are "not intended to replace the existing commemorative events but are underpinned by a desire to provide civic leadership with the aim of promoting reconciliation and equality". He and McNulty said they planned to hold treeplanting ceremonies in Tyrone on the day.

The DUP has refused to acknowledge the inclusive gesture from republicans, saying on Wednesday that it was merely a "publicity stunt". The SDLP, however, welcomed the day as a "creative proposal".

Speaking to An Phoblacht after the press conference on Tuesday, Ó hEára explained that on the night he was elected Mayor of Derry he announced his intention to deal "in a new and imaginative way with the potentially contentious issue of remembrance". He had sought advice from, "hundreds of individuals and dozens of organisatons in the city and beyond as to how we might achieve this objective".


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