Sinn Féin, a youth organisation, and the Duke of Edinburgh… time to grow up.

Imagine that you are 14 years old, you have just worked hard completing activities including Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition, for over three months as well as additional three months on one of them. During this time you have also carried out a 2 day (and one night) expedition. At the end of it you get an award. It could be with your school, the Scouts, the Guides, the Boys’ Brigade, the Church Lads’ Brigade or any other youth organisation.

Having completed this award. you receive a certificate from someone important, along with all the others who have got your award. I know that it felt great to receive my Queen’s Scout Award certificate from the then Chief Scout George Purdy (complete in his saffron kilt) in Craigavon Civic Centre in January 1997). I can only imagine what it is like to receive Duke of Edinburgh’s Award certificates from anyone – as I didn’t complete it (sticking with the Scout Association awards scheme).

The good thing about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme is that it doesn’t matter what youth organisation you belong to – or none – anyone up to the age of 25 can take part.

On Monday past, there was a ceremony at which Belfast’s first citizen, The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Niall Ó Donnghaile was presenting certificates. At some point during the course of the evening, someone felt it necessary to tell the Lord Mayor that one of the recipients was from the Army Cadet Force. Nothing wrong with that you say?

Indeed there is nothing wrong with anyone coming from any of the Cadet Forces or indeed any other youth organisation. If the recipient has completed the Award they should get the certificate along with everyone else. Sadly, it seems that someone thought that there would be a problem with the Sinn Féin member handing a certificate to a member of a youth organisation.

I know that the Army Cadet Force is sponsored by the British Army – but it is quite a different thing from actually being the British Army. It is clear that some one in City Hall was not thinking. Perhaps they were even making trouble?

Trouble is certainly brewing for the Lord Mayor now, as the entire Unionist bloc on the City Council has signed a statement calling on him to publicly apologise or resign.

It sounds like everyone organising such events, those assisting the Lord Mayor, as well as everyone in the City Council, needs to grow up. It is clear that Northern Ireland has moved on. If the Lord Mayor of Belfast, even a Sinn Féin councillor, can happily present award certificates for an Award Scheme set up by HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort of HM The Queen, to those who have completed the relevant award, then surely we have indeed moved on.

But someone reckoned that there were ‘sensitivities’. To whom, the young people who then didn’t get their certificate from the Lord Mayor, or the Lord Mayor himself? Why can’t a member of Sinn Féin meet someone from a youth organisation? It really does sound crazy. But more importantly, what would have happened if he had not been warned at the last minute?

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