Belfast gets youngest Lord Mayor

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Belfast City Council tonight elected its youngest ever Lord Mayor and the first to have been educated in the Irish medium schools sector.

Sinn Féin’s Niall O Donnghaile (25) took the post, serving alongside DUP deputy Mayor Ruth Patterson.

The new mayor was a party press officer at the Stormont Assembly but was elected for the Pottinger ward of east Belfast in the elections held earlier this month.

A fluent Irish speaker and a politics graduate, he has been a Sinn Féin member since he was 16.

But his appointment followed a row over the selection process, which uses the same power-sharing system employed at Stormont.

The council model, however, had been based on the size of political groupings, as opposed to individual party strength.

But when rival unionists sought to form a single bloc to secure the maximum number of senior posts, despite unionists having lost their dominant position on the council, the other parties blocked the move.

Alliance Party councillor Maire Hendron said the wider allocation of posts was a better reflection of the election results.

Following unionist objections, she said: “The DUP in Belfast need to make up their mind whether they are really moving forward or simply stuck in reverse.”

Mr O Donnghaile succeeds the SDLP’s Pat Convery who handed over the chain of office at tonight’s AGM in City Hall.

He becomes the city’s third Sinn Féin Lord Mayor, following in the footsteps of Alex Maskey in 2002 and Tom Hartley in 2008.

PA

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