Upper Bann MP David Simpson has reacted angrily to suggestions his decision to attend Lurgan’s Act of Remembrance on Sunday – rather than Portadown’s where he has laid a wreath since 2005 – smacks of electioneering.
He switched venues after it emerged on Monday night that Sinn Fein Deputy Mayor Catherine Seeley would not be laying the Lurgan wreath, citing the involvement of British military as a reason for her refusal.
Mr Simpson - who as MP for the area will be laying the first wreath in Lurgan - said, “This is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War where soldiers from all over Ireland – before partition – fought side by side. There is a history in Lurgan that Protestants and Catholics partook in unified commemoration at the War Memorial after the Catholics had their service at St Peter’s.
“As well as that, the Deputy Mayor is supposed to represent everyone in a position that’s above politics. This has come about through the Ulster Unionists election a Deputy Mayor whom they must have known would react this way.”
Councillor Meta Crozier – who will be laying the council wreath in Lurgan – said “the Deputy Mayor’s action is an insult to all brave soldiers, north and south.”
However, she went on to say: “There’s an election next year. And David Simpson’s wreath is not being laid on behalf of the council, but on behalf of himself. Everyone realises that next May’s Westminster election will be a tight one. Catherine Seeley wants to ask herself questions in her role as Deputy Mayor.”
Mr Simpson, however, insisted his decision had nothing to do with politics,
Local MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said, “Remembrance Sunday shouldn’t be about political parties or politicians. It should be about the solemn remembrance of those who gave their lives in defence of democracy, freedom of speech and our way of life.”
Royal British Legion Lurgan Branch chairperson Roberta McNally, asked if Sinn Fein had approached them asking British military involvement on Sunday be removed, said: “I can confirm that I had a meeting with the deputy mayor last week during which I outlined the format of our parade, wreath laying ceremony and church service as it was, as it is and as it will be.”
Sinn Féin councillor Catherine Seeley said; “The meetings with the British Legion were challenging but also respectful and meaningful they offered real hope and prospect of further engagement with the British Legion in Upper Bann. While I respect the right of all to remember and honour the fallen from the First and Second World Wars and indeed our recent conflict, it is clear that the British military involvement in such commemorations makes it impossible for the entire community get involved.”