Sinn Féin’s John Finucane elected Mayor of Belfast

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John Finucane, son of assassinated defence lawyer Pat Finucance, has been elected as mayor of Belfast.

Earlier this month Mr Finucane won a council seat as a Sinn Féin candidate and under an agreement by the main political parties, he has been elected the the post of city Mayor.

Sinn Féin Belfast councillor Ciaran Beattie described his party colleague as a “fearless defender and promoter of human rights and social justice”.

Like his murdered father, Mr Finucane is a human rights lawyer. Pat Finucane was 39 years of age when was shot dead by a death squad in front of his wife and children in 1989.

His wife Geraldine was wounded in the attack, while John and his sister Katherine and brother Michael hid under a table as their father was shot 14 times.

The family’s decades-long legal battle with the British government for a full public inquiry into the killing continues despite earlier agreements to hold one.

Mr Finucane urged unionists to judge him with an open mind, and highlighted his family links to the unionist community.

“I am the product of an east Belfast mother who grew up in a middle class unionist area and a west Belfast father who grew up in a Catholic working class area,” Mr Finucane, said as he formally began his year in office.

“I live and have grown up in north Belfast, I have seen both sides of this city.

“I am a republican, I have family members who are unionist, I have family members who are neither of the two, and I think that diversity can only make our city stronger, because certainly I have felt the benefit of that particular upbringing.

“I feel very comfortable in my own politics, that it doesn’t cause me any discomfort to go into areas, where I have been invited, to go into areas and show that a Sinn Fein mayor is not something to be feared.

“Because first and foremost, especially given my own personal background, I know that we need representation that represents everybody, and we can’t be partial.

“I appreciate that is me setting out my stall at the start of the year, but I ask people to certainly treat me with an open mind, because I am coming at this to very much represent everybody in Belfast, and I think there will be opportunities that present themselves and I don’t think I will be found wanting.”

Mr Finucane, a former Sinn Fein Westminster election, came close to defeating the sitting DUP MP Nigel Dodds in the North Belfast constituency two years ago.

But he said he wanted to be “a mayor for everybody”. He added: “I think diversity in my personal background has made me stronger. It’s not just a sound bite from me to say I am here to represent everybody. I will be doing that.”

He explained that he had relations on his mother’s side who were members of the Orange Order, and he recently discovered that his grandfather served in the British Navy during World War Two.

“My office and my hand will always be extended, especially to the Orange Order,” he said. “Certainly I won’t be found wanting should a request come in.”

Mr Finucane also said he would have “no difficulty” meeting members of the English royalty on their frequent visits to Belfast. He said that his party’s approach to the British Army’s Remembrance Sunday commemorations would be reviewed ahead of November. He said he was “very cognisant of my own family history” in World War Two and added that he would deal with such issues in a “very sensitive” manner.

He also said that he would not allow his year as mayor to be dominated by his past, but he added that he hoped his late father would be proud.

The rotation of Belfast’s mayor post will see the DUP take the spot in 2020, the Alliance Party in 2021 and Sinn Féin again in 2022.

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