Derry’s Mayor has rubbished suggestions that plans to hold a Day of Reflection in the city in May are a “political stunt”, and encouraged local people to come forward and get involved.
Elisha McCallion was speaking at the first consultation day held in The Junction, Bishop Street, aimed at bringing local people together in a mission to find out how the Day of Reflection can be as inclusive as possible.
Tuesday’s event was one of a number planned in coming weeks with various community and victims’ groups.
The initial Day of Reflection was first held in 2004 under the Mayoralty of Gearoid O’hEara.
It was held for several years but, primarily, when there was a Sinn Fein Mayor of Derry. The last time the Day of Reflection took place was in 2013 when Kevin Campbell was First Citizen.
“I have picked it up this year,” said Elisha McCallion. “We are a brand new council and we have taken in a bigger boundary.
“The plaque originally commissioned for the Day of Reflection was for Derry City Council so I thought it would be appropriate to incorporate the entire district and to begin having those conversations again in relation to remembrance and joint remembrance.”
The existing plaque at Guildhall Square states: “In memory of all of those who have lost their lives as a result of war and conflict from and within the city and district.”
However, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane stressed that the Day of Reflection was not about replacing any other remembrance events.
“People choose to remember on Remembrance Sunday or on Easter Sunday - this initiative is not there to consider replacing any of those. This is an all inclusive remembrance event that brings everyone together. It is all inclusive and will remember everyone. To my knowledge, there is no other event in the city that remembers everyone inclusively.”
She revealed that a wide range of private discussions have already taken place and this will now be followed up with consultations with community and victims’ groups.
She appealed to members of the public who have their own views on what should be done to come forward and take part in the events.
“The intention is that the event can be all inclusive and shouldn’t be seen as a political issue,” she said. “I am quite willing to meet with anyone who is willing to input their views.”
The Mayor said that, while she didn’t want to pre-empt the views that could emerge from the Day of Reflection talks, it was anticipated that the new plaque which represents both Derry and Strabane would be located in the Guildhall.
Gearoid O’hEara, Derry’s Mayor on the first Day of Reflection revealed that, in 2004, the big question of whether he would be going to the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday arose.
“I mentioned at a Sinn Fein gathering that I would go,” he said. “I said I’d go to make the gesture and to show that anything was possible.”
He said there was an outcry at his suggestion and admitted, at that time, it was “probably too soon for everyone involved.
“So we thought, what about if we create an event that is universal. We wanted to create something that would not offend.”
It’s expected this year’s event will take place in May.