‘A cloud is hanging over our city’

Derry skyline.
Derry skyline.
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A dark cloud has descended over Derry unlike anything witnessed since Bloody Sunday, a local Councillor has said following a succession of separate tragic deaths locally.

Derry Councillors expressed their sorrow over recent losses after gathering at a special planning meeting held in Strabane on Wednesday afternoon.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle.

Reference was made at the start of the meeting to the tragic death of Buncrana woman Danielle McLaughlin in Goa, India just over a week ago, followed by emotional tributes to late Derry City F.C. captain Ryan McBride and late Sinn Fein veteran and former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, both of whom passed away earlier this week.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle, who was chairing the committee meeting, said:

“I am very conscious of the fact that over the past week, hours and days it has felt somewhat like a cloud has befallen our city and district, and further afield, in relation to some very sad losses of life, including people who are dear to some of us present and indeed our colleagues not present.

“Bearing in mind the events over the past week, the horrific news of the loss of a young life, Danielle McLaughlin, a young woman who had an adventurous spirit and who visited various places across the globe, we should express our condolences.”

Speaking about the sudden death of Ryan McBride, he said: “As someone who is a very, very close follower of Derry City, it has reverberated very, very significantly and comes as a severe and sore shock to the people of the city.

“And then,” he added, “to be followed almost immediately by news of the death of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was very much respected and revered throughout this part of the island and beyond.

“I think it is appropriate on behalf of the SDLP that we pass on our condolences to Martin’s family, friends and indeed to you, members of Sinn Fein, in what is clearly a very difficult time.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan proposed that the Council send letters of condolence to the families of all those aforementioned.

Speaking about the recent tragedies, he said: “While it was a shock on Monday morning when we woke up, it was an even bigger shock yesterday morning.

“To be honest, such a cloud is hanging over this city. I haven’t felt the same cloud since Bloody Sunday.”

Colr. Hassan said there had been a lot in the papers, on TV and radio, and would be a lot more to come, “and I find it very, very pleasing that a lot of people who have been opposed to him [Martin McGuinness], enemies, could turn around and talk the way they talked about him.”

He said even David Trimble in his letter had noted Martin’s huge contribution.

Colr. Hassan said that over the years during Sinn Fein internal party meetings on policy, when it came to Martin McGuinness’ turn to give his views, “his charisma just had you; you just felt it.”

“Basically,” he added, “we have lost a tremendous colleague in our party, and a leader.”

Colr. Boyle said he also felt it would be appropriate for the committee to write to SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner expressing condolences on the very recent loss of her father.