The MP for East Londonderry has defended his decision not to attend the funeral of Bishop Edward Daly in Londonderry on Thursday.
Gregory Campbell was speaking after unionist politicians were criticised for staying away from the service at St Eugene’s Cathedral.
Although some senior Protestant churchmen, and the Lord Lieutenant representing the Queen, attended, no major unionist figures were visible among the mourners.
On hearing the news of Bishop Daly’s death, Mr Campbell issued a statement paying tribute to the churchman.
He said: “I’ve known Bishop Edward Daly, probably 30 years, more or less since I came into politics.
“Obviously, he was a Catholic bishop and I was a unionist politician so, on political issues we would have differed, but I always found him to be exceptionally considerate and very dedicated to charitable work, such as the Foyle Hospice.”
In response to the criticism over his, and other unionists’, absence, Mr Campbell told Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme on Friday that no one should be told how they pay their personal tributes to someone who has died.
“People are saying that it is absolutely important that they do it in this way, that it should be attendance at X or it should be the signing of Y.
“In my view it would be more important on the passing of someone, no matter who they are or what their standing is in the community, that when people are deserving of tributes then those tributes are made – saying I’m happy to acknowledge the contribution that person made, rather than somebody saying, ‘ah yes, but what you didn’t do was...”
The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Hilary McClintock of the DUP, was one of many people expected to attend; however, a council spokesperson said the mayor was “unable” to be there.
No further details were given in response to an inquiry from the Derry Journal.
The spokesperson said: “Unfortunately the mayor was unable to attend the funeral service; the deputy mayor attended to represent the people of the city and district.”