Former SF mayor’s forefather to be included on Ballynahinch war memorial

Mairtin O Muilleor (second left) at theArmistice Day ceremony in Belfast in November 2013
Mairtin O Muilleor (second left) at theArmistice Day ceremony in Belfast in November 2013

Former Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir’s great-grandfather is to be included on Ballynahinch war memorial.

In 2013 Mr Ó Muilleoir was the first Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast to attend an Armistice Day ceremony, explaining that he wanted to show “respect to the unionist tradition”.

On Thursday he confirmed his great-grandfather John McManus’ past.

His name “is certainly on Killyleagh war memorial” but it was news to him that it was to be added to nearby Ballynahinch’s also, he told the News Letter.

He added that he would like to “applaud all those who are reflecting on the terrible horror of WWI and our pledge to make it the war to end all wars”.

Horace Reid of the Ballynahinch War Memorial Committee said that Mr O Muilleoir’s great-grandfather was in the Army and was ready to retire when war broke out.

“Aged 64, Company Sergeant Major John McManus of the 18th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles was stationed at a training post in Belfast and died ‘in the harness’ of medical causes in September 1916,” he said.

Born in Ballynahinch, he also won a Long Service award.

“He was entitled to a military funeral and a Commonwealth war graves headstone. So he was counted as a war casualty.

“Local feelings changed after the Easter Rising in 1916, so he had the last military funeral on the Falls Road.

“Catholic soldiers from Belfast were still being killed after that but they had to have private family funerals.”

Mr Reid said that for generations afterwards some of Mr McManus’ relatives did not visit his grave, at Milltown Cemetery.

“But in 2013 his great-grandson Máirtín Ó Muilleoir finally made that journey,” he added.

Mr Reid said around one-third of the names on the Ballynahinch war memorial are Catholic.

“We really want to reach out to the Roman Catholic community and include them as has been done in Belfast,” he said.

The monument is being reconstructed at present and will be officially unveiled in the spring.

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