Council power-sharing resisted
Council power-sharing resisted

An ‘unholy alliance’ between Ian Paisley’s DUP and the nationalist SDLP has been blamed for Sinn Féin’s exclusion from both the top posts on Belfast City Council.

THE SDLP has denied accusations that it had entered into an electoral pact with the DUP to secure the post of Belfast deputy mayor.

DUP councillor Wallace Browne was elected Mayor with support from the SDLP, Alliance and the Ulster Unionist Party.

It is the first time in four years that the DUP has held the post. The SDLP’s Pat Convery was elected deputy lord mayor.

Sinn Féin Oldpark representative Caral Ni Chuilin said she was not surprised at the result.

“It is quite obvious that the SDLP has entered into an electoral pact with the DUP,” she said.

“Our agenda is for equal and inclusive rights for all. It’s disappointing that other nationalist parties don’t vote for a nationalist mayor. But to-morrow is a new day and it’s business as usual.”

The new deputy mayor, who gained 33 votes to beat Sinn Féin’s Danny Lavery, said suggestions of an electoral pact were nonsense.

“There is no electoral pact,” he said. “We believe in rotation and partnership. We would like to work to ensure the community of Belfast is a united community and one which works for the needs and interests of all.”

Meanwhile, Coleraine Borough Council came under attack after unionist councillors excluded its first elected Sinn Féin councillor, Billy Leonard, from any committee positions.

The D’Hondt system of power sharing was applied to just 20 council positions.

“This was a night of gutter local politics,” said Mr Leonard.

“The incoming DUP mayor spoke of a ‘forward-looking borough’ yet his party, by their actions, admitted they can’t move forward. They were excluding Sinn Féin and they were prepared to ignore the group of people who voted for Sinn Féin candidates right across the borough.

“When I said that they were on a programme for exclusion from many of the positions, one DUP councillor openly said they were excluding ‘only the Shinners’. Now we have an important equality committee that doesn’t reflect the equality legislation. It’s pathetic.”

In Dungannon, County Tyrone, veteran Sinn Féin councillor and assembly member Francie Molloy was selected as mayor for the next 12 months.

He said: “I want to see people being able to build a home in the areas they live in. In light of the review of public administration, I want to make the case for local government. I want to make the case for Dungannon as a major council in the future,” he said.

The SDLP in Down Council accepted the d’Hondt system of rotating senior positions for the first time. Up until now, the SDLP and the UUP rotated the top positions between them but it was prevented this time by the growth of Sinn Féin, now the second largest party on Down Council.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News