REV LATIMER FOR ARD FHEIS Presbyterian clergyman in ‘historic’ move

Rev. David Latimer inside First Derry Presbyterian Church which is undergoing refurbishment. (1005PG04)
Rev. David Latimer inside First Derry Presbyterian Church which is undergoing refurbishment. (1005PG04)

Derry Presbyterian minister Rev David Latimer will make history on Friday when he will deliver a keynote address at the Sinn Féin ard fheis.

Rev Latimer, from the First Derry and Claremont Presbyterian Church, will speak at the ard fheis - Sinn Féin’s annual party conference and the largest gathering of republicans in Ireland - on Friday night in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.

In a historic move, he will become the first locally-based Protestant clergyman to address the event. South African Anglican cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke at a previous ard fheis.

Rev Latimer, who is known for his work in building bridges between Catholic and Protestant communities, was invited to speak at the event by the Sinn Féin leadership.

In recent years the Presbyterian clergyman has developed a close friendship with Sinn Féin leader and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The Deputy First Minister was involved in securing Executive funding for the restoration of the historic First Derry church building on Magazine Street and was among the guests at the recent gala re-opening of the church.

It is expected that Mr McGuinness will introduce Rev Latimer onto the stage at the Waterfront Hall to give his address.

As well as his work at First Derry Church, Rev Latimer has also served as a chaplain in the British military’s Territorial Army and travelled with his regiment to Afghanistan several years ago.

He also visited the Bloody Sunday monument on Rossville Street on the day after the publication of the Saville report alongside Methodist, Church of Ireland, and Catholic clergymen to meet with relatives of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday.

This weekend’s ard fheis will be the first in the party’s history to be held north of the border. The annual party conference is traditionally held in Dublin.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said; “We are delighted that Rev Latimer has accepted an invitation to address this historic ard fheis, the first to be held in the North.”