The Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast has said he is happy to use the title of ‘Lord’ and other royal aspects of the post in order to show observance of the things unionists “hold dear”.
Speaking to the the Irish Catholic newspaper, published today, Mairtin O Muilleor said he would be discarding the republican traditions adopted by the last Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast, Niall O Donnghaile.
He said he would be keeping royal portraits in the mayor’s parlour, as well as signed photographs of the English queen Elizabeth Windsor, her husband ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ Philip Sonderburg-Gluecksburg and other royals.
Mr O Donnghaile, as a republican, infuratied unionists when he removed royal portraits from the parlour and avoided using the term ‘Lord’ Mayor.
Mr O Muilleoir also said that he would adopt other unionist traditions -- in keeping with Sinn Fein’s long-standing ‘unionist outreach’ agenda -- and would “very seriously consider” any invitation to meet a member of the royal family as ‘Lord Mayor’.
“The correct title is Lord Mayor and you should treat people as you would wish to be treated. There are people in this city who revere these titles and why would we poke them in the eye with a stick?” he said.
“Are Unionists to believe in this new society we are trying to create there is to be no observance of all the things they hold dear? That all the titles they had, all the portraits they had, that this new society holds that from them. That for me would not be a good idea.”
He said he is also in discussion to create a Remembrance Day event for the British Armed Services. “I travel in hope believing politics is the art of the possible,” he added.
The response to Belfast City Council’s decision to fly the British Union Jack on designated days and not the whole year round was a “set back”, he believed. “It caused hurt to a large swathe of ordinary Protestants.”
Although defending the decision, he recognised “the sensitivity of the issue”, adding “I think everyone here has learned a lot from it”.
O Muilleoir, one of seven children of Sammy and Bridie Millar was brought up in the Andersonstown area of West Belfast in a family of “deep faith and devotion”, he said.
The windows of his family home were smashed by republicans in the 1970s after his parents started a peace movement opposed to the IRA.
But he said as a young person he rebelled and supported “those who fought back” and “identified with the IRA”.
In answer to a question he says “I wouldn’t say the campaign was wrong” but.. “it would have been great” if there had been “another way”.
“I absolutely regret we ended up in a 30 year cycle of violence,” he said.
He pointed to the Welsh language movement who “didn’t use fire because once you use fire innocents will perish, you have no control over it”.
Mr O Muilleoir became Mayor of Belfast last month, the third Sinn Fein member to hold the post. A self-styled “moderniser” within the party, republicans hardliners have always accused him of representing a new Six-County oligarchy.
An Irish speaker and a prominent language enthusiast, he was a Sinn Fein councillor from 1987-97 and returned to politics in 2011.
A grant-supported businessman from Andersonstown, he now owns the Belfast Media Group which controls media organisations including the Andersonstown News, the Irish Echo in New York and belfastmedia.com