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Belfast official resigning to avoid queen

April 23, 2012 at 9:47 PM   |   Comments

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, April 23 (UPI) -- Belfast Lord Mayor Niall Donnghaile, a member of Sinn Fein, is leaving his post early, which means he will avoid Queen Elizabeth II when she visits this year.

The Belfast Telegraph reported Monday City Hall sources confirmed the rules have been changed to allow a new lord mayor to be elected at a meeting June 1, a week early, and ahead of the start of events celebrating the queen's 60 years on the throne. The position is likely to go to Gavin Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party, the newspaper said.

It's not known when the queen will travel to Northern Ireland, but some unionists have described the Sinn Fein move as rude, the Telegraph said.

"It is definitely a snub," said former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers. "When I was lord mayor I met a wide range of people from both sides. I was criticized both publicly and privately for it -- but I believe you have to lead to the city and you have to be above politics. Unfortunately this current lord mayor has been one of the most political that I can remember in more than 20 years in council."

Jim McVeigh, Sinn Fein leader on the Belfast City Council, downplayed any perceived slight.

"This is as much about accommodating the unionists as about us not wanting to be part of the jubilee celebrations," he said. "We are republicans and have no great love for the royalty in any shape or form. We do not want to be part of the celebrations. A unionist mayor would love to be on that seat when a member of the royalty or maybe even the queen herself comes to Belfast."

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