Northern Ireland

Church of Ireland minister urges free food facility to close for Queen Elizabeth's funeral

Rev Mark Loney has urged a food facility in Dungiven to close for Queen Elizabeth's funeral
Rev Mark Loney has urged a food facility in Dungiven to close for Queen Elizabeth's funeral

A Church of Ireland minister has urged a community group to close a popular free food facility in a mainly nationalist Co Derry town for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth

Rev Mark Loney, who is rector at Dungiven and Bovevagh Church of Ireland, wrote to Dungiven Regeneration Club earlier this week.

It hosts the local 'Community Fridge', which encourages people to donate goods that are then redistributed.

Rev Loney sits on the regeneration group's committee.

Details of the email emerged after it was revealed that Rev Loney's wife, Jo, has also contacted businesses in the town asking if they intended to close.

In his email to Dungiven Regeneration Club on Monday, headed 'The Queen's funeral', Rev Loney suggested the group close it's busy food facility.

He wrote: "However, would it be helpful for the committee, whatever their constitutional allegiances or none to formally endorse the closure of the 'Community Fridge' on that day as a token of respect for those in the environs of Dungiven for whom the Monarch's death is a significant occasion to mark with the deepest respect."

The minister also suggested a formula of words the group could use adding that it was "something of a sore point" that two named local businesses do not intend to close.

Speaking to the Irish News last night Rev Loney said "there are people parading the fact that we have good cross community relations and that we need to see each others perspective and so forth.

"I think it would be a good thing if people go an extra mile and actually say, we are not endorsing monarchy or anything else," he said.

"We will close because you as a valued part of our community have a particular concern or sympathy with what's going on at the moment and we will join you in that."

Rev Loney also referenced the actions of some Sinn Féin representatives over recent days.

"Given that Michelle O'Neill and significant republican elements attended a service of reflection at St Anne's Cathedral in honour of her majesty the Queen was leading by example," he said.

Jo Loney confirmed she had contacted two businesses.

Asked if it is true that she encouraged the businesses to close next Monday she said: "I would expect that would happen but I wouldn't want to say anything further than that.

Pressed on why she would want businesses to close she said: "I would expect a bit of decency.

"Like for example if the Pope died I would expect any cross community facility to close as well and I would be endorsing that."

Sinn Féin councillor Sean McGlinchey said that to close a food facility was wrong.

"People don't stop eating or needing help because it's a bank holiday," he said.

"I am sure even the Queen would not want a food bank to close."

"People are entitled to respect the Queen in whatever way they want but to phone businesses and ask them to close is another thing.

"It's very disrespectful to the wider community of Dungiven."