Any visit to Mid Ulster area by Irish President Michael D. Higgins will be opposed by unionists, according to the DUP’s Paul McLean.
“So far as we (unionists) are concerned there is only one head of state and that is Her Majesty the Queen,” he told the Mail.
The nationalist controlled council last week voted to invite President Higgins to Mid Ulster, in particular the Bellaghy area to view progress on the £4m Seamus Heaney Centre.
SDLP councillor Martin Kearney proposed the council formally invite the Irish President to the area following a discussion on extending the right to vote for the President of Ireland, to people living in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday, Councillor McLean accused nationalist parties of getting involved in matters that were of no concern to the vast majority of ratepayers.
“This is just a gimmick, a game between the SDLP and Sinn Féin over which party can be the most green,” he claimed.
Giving people in the north the opportunity to vote in presidential elections, would result in a president for all
Councillor Kearney said his party councillors were of the opinion that the council should invite President Higgins at the earliest opportunity and be the first super council to do so.
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Sinn Féin Councillor Catherine Elattar said they would be delighted to have President Higgins visit the new Mid-Ulster council area.
“We are very much looking forward to the building of the Seamus Heaney Centre, an exciting project which has been supported by the Sinn Féin team in team in Mid-Ulster and which will hopefully be a fitting tribute to his memory and his life’s work,” she said.
Councillor Elattar had earlier obtained the support of the council for extending the right to vote for the President to “citizens in the north of Ireland and beyond.”
“Giving people in the north the opportunity to vote in presidential elections, would result in a president for all. Sinn Féin are seeking voting rights for all those who live in the north. Everyone on the island of Ireland deserves to be able to vote for the President of Ireland,” she said after the motion was passed.
“Sinn Féin is also seeking the extension of voting rights to Irish citizens living abroad. As a result of the failed policies of austerity, growing numbers of Irish people have been forced to go abroad in search of work and opportunities. While we in Sinn Féin are working daily to create a better Ireland, north and south, with opportunities for our young people, so that they don’t leave, we do not believe that those who are currently in other countries should be disenfranchised.