The election of a first-ever Sinn Fein mayor in Dublin has underlined the party’s progress in city councils across the island ahead of the centennial commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Long-standing Dublin councillor Criona Ni Dhalaigh was elected mayor with 41 votes from the 63 member city council -- despite a last minute effort by the right-wing parties to wreck a deal which should have guaranteed Sinn Fein the post.
Ms Ni Dhalaigh is the 346th mayor of the city, but only the eighth woman to hold the office.
Sinn Fein became the largest party on the council at last year’s local elections, taking 16 out of the council’s seats.
A voting pact agreed last June between Sinn Fein, Labour, the Green Party and some Independents saw Christy Burke, an Independent who was formerly a Sinn Fein councillor, elected mayor, with the condition that Sinn Fein would hold the position from June 2015 until June 2016.
As first citizen, Ms Ni Dhalaigh will preside over the 1916 Rising centenary commemorations in the capital alongside the President and the Taoiseach. Protocol stipulates that the mayor comes second only to the President at official ceremonies in the city.
Popular with fellow councillors from all parties, Ms Ni Dhalaigh joined the council in 2006, representing the Crumlin-Kimmage ward.
Speaking after her election, Ms Ni Dhalaigh said the Proclamation of the Irish Republic “speaks to us today more urgently than ever.”
“The Proclamation’s commitment to “equal rights and equal opportunities” for all our people has yet to be fulfilled. We do not yet live in an equal city, or an equal country.”
Ms Ni Dhalaigh also said that housing families would be the priority during her mayoralty, and that that she intended to introduce herself with the Irish language form ‘Ardmheara’ in place of “Lord Mayor”, as the term was gender free and she was uncomfortable with being described as a “lord”.
Fianna Fail’s Jim O’Callaghan said he has opposed Ms Ni Dhalaigh because he was afraid that Sinn Fein would “hijack this important year of commemoration to justify the 30 year pointless and counterproductive campaign by the Provisional IRA.”
Sinn Fein’s leader on the council, Seamas McGrattan, admitted his party pushed to hold the position in 2016, saying it “is an important year for us”, but he added: “We’re not seeking to hijack anything.”
Congratulating Ms Ni Dhalaigh, Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast, Arder Carson pointed to the council votes recently which saw Cork elect its first (Provisonial) Sinn Fein mayor in the person of Chris O’Leary, and South Dublin County Council elect Sinn Fein’s Sarah Holland to the top post.
“The election of another Sinn Fein mayor highlights the growing support for republicanism right across the island,” he said.
“As we approach the centenary of the Easter Rising Sinn Fein mayors will be in place in the four major cities on the island; Dublin, Belfast, Derry and Cork.”