‘No discussion’ over McGuinness attending Mandela memorial

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Roads Minister Danny Kennedy yesterday questioned how Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had been appointed to represent Executive ministers at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Speaking during questions on the issue in the Assembly, the UUP MLA said there had been “no Executive guidance on the arrangements for Nelson Mandela’s funeral”.

“I am able to confirm that no discussion has taken place at Executive level, whether through written correspondence or whatever else, on the funeral arrangements and Executive representation.”

Answering a query from party colleague Tom Elliott, he said: “I am not aware of what approach is being taken on the funding of his attendance, nor am I aware of the position that either the Scottish or Welsh First Ministers are adopting.

“My understanding is that three former Prime Ministers, the current Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales are to attend and are to represent the United Kingdom as a whole.

“I think that many people across Northern Ireland will, understandably, feel that it is not appropriate for the Deputy First Minister to attend alone, purporting to represent Northern Ireland. I certainly find myself sympathetic to that position. That we have also learned that Mr Gerry Adams will attend some events does not improve that situation.”

Speaking after the exchange, Mr Elliott asked how Mr McGuinness came to be appointed to represent Northern Ireland.

“Who cleared it with the Executive? DRD Minister, Danny Kennedy MLA, made clear that he wasn’t aware of it being discussed. If the First Minister declined to go, did he consent to Martin McGuinness going in his place?”

A spokeswoman for the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) said: “The Deputy First Minister is attending the memorial service on behalf of OFMDFM, representing the Executive. Costs will be published in due course, along with all other travel costs.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said Mr McGuinness said in the Assembly on Monday that “he is in South Africa representing the Executive at the event”.