Irish Republican News · June 6, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Tom Hartley elected Belfast Mayor
Tom Hartley elected Belfast Mayor

Sinn Féin’s Tom Hartley was elected as the new Mayor of Belfast on Monday night, narrowly defeating the DUP’s Diane Dodds.

It is only the second time that a Sinn Féin councillor has held the position as first citizen in Belfast.

Ulster Unionist David Browne became the new deputy lord mayor during a meeting of Belfast City Council.

Mr Hartley faced stiff competition from Mrs Dodds, taking the chains of office by 25 votes to 23.

During the selection, Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance Party councillors opted for Mr Hartley and DUP and UUP councillors favoured Mrs Dodds. One councillor - Mr Browne - did not vote.

Speaking after the meeting Mrs Dodds accused Mr Browne of “opportunism” by not voting for her.

She claimed his actions were “part of a pact with Sinn Féin to the detriment of the unionist people in Belfast”.

In 2002, Alex Maskey became the first Sinn Féin lord mayor of Belfast.

Speaking after his election, Mr Hartley said it was his intention to use his year in office to develop the city’s political culture away from the politics of diversity.

The west Belfast councillor said he wanted to ensure that the disadvantaged, underprivileged and the marginalised were made to feel a part of the city.

“This means acknowledging the existence of a diverse political and cultural life and it includes giving recognition to the breadth of political aspirations and cultural aspirations,” he said.

“It will be my aim as lord mayor to help develop our city’s political culture, away from a legacy of division towards civic and cultural diversity - to turn what divides us into a diversity that enriches our city and the lives of its citizens.”

He said Belfast was on the cusp of major change and its people faced many new challenges as they strived to build a prosperous and vibrant city.

“Those who know me know how much I love this city. We live in a great city made great by its citizens.

“As Lord Mayor I believe ownership of this city must be felt by all the citizens, including women, the disadvantaged, ethnic minorities, the Travelling community, senior citizens, young people, the gay and lesbian community and disabled people.

“I will engage with everyone through an open door policy.

“I will acknowledge diversity in political and cultural life and I shall aim to turn what divides us into a diversity that enriches our city and citizens.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams offered “chomgairdeas” [congratulations] to Mr Hartley.

“He has been a first class representative for the people of the Lower Falls for years and I know he will be a first class Mayor of this city,” he said.

* In Derry, SDLP councillor Gerard Diver was officially elected as the new mayor of the city. Mr Diver, from the city’s Waterside, took over as first citizen from the DUP’s Drew Thompson.

© 2008 Irish Republican News