A claim by the DUP’s Gary Middleton that he was snubbed by Mayor, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, when he was not invited to meet the European chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, during his visit to Derry this morning has been rejected by the European Commission (EC).
In a blistering attack on the first citizen the Foyle MLA questioned how Mr. Barnier would “get a balanced view of Londonderry during his visit if hosted by the Mayor”.
He claimed that as “the sole unionist MLA for Foyle” he was not invited to meet Mr Barnier.
However, this paper has learned that no MLAs were formally invited to meet Mr. Barnier during his visit to the city, which was coordinated by the EC rather than the council, or the Mayor.
The council advised that the visit was Europe’s gig and a spokesperson for the European Commission Office in the North has confirmed that no MLAs from the city were invited.
Mr. Middleton’s intervention came in the wake of a series of claims and counterclaims over the observance or otherwise of diplomatic protocol over the past week or so.
First, Sinn Féin expressed anger after the British Brexit minister David Davis mounted a stealth visit to South Armagh without telling the local MP Mickey Brady.
Then, unionists claimed the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had been discourteous by not letting their local representatives know in advance that he would be visiting Newry.
Whilst the EC have confirmed the Sinn Féin Mayor had nothing to do with the invitation list for Mr. Barnier’s visit, unionists in the city, including Mr. Middleton, remain angry over his refusal to meet members of the British royal family during a visit to Derry last year.
“Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has objected to concerns about Michel Barnier getting a balanced view from this visit by saying the Mayor would ensure the guest list ‘captures all that is great about our city’.
“The Mayor’s abysmal record of inclusivity towards the unionist community speaks for itself.
“This Mayor has refused to attend any remembrance events, has snubbed Prince Charles, prevented any Council representative from attending a royal garden party and tarnished the Office by wearing the Mayoral chain whilst visiting a dissident republican terrorist in prison,” said Mr. Middleton.