In this place, the walls say it all

If only these walls could talk, goes the saying. Well, such a phenomenon might help Belfast's new lord mayor who is this week defending his decision to remove two portraits of members of the British royal family from the mayor's parlor.

Sinn Féin's Niall Ó Donnghaile was speaking at a press conference held at City Hall after he was criticized by unionists for replacing portraits of Prince Charles and the late queen mother with the 1916 Proclamation and a portrait of the United Irishmen.

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The move has upset unionists who slammed the Lord Mayor's actions as disrespectful. However Ó Donnghaile was keen to point out that he has kept portraits of the queen and Prince Phillip in a bid to retain balance and inclusiveness.

"The changes I have made create a shared and inclusive space," said Ó Donnghaile.

"It is a space which those visiting the parlor can relax in and see their cultural identity reflected. This is about trying to make the parlor more open and representative of all the traditions in Belfast.

"There were four portraits of the British royal family in nine available spaces, that seemed a little unbalanced. I have nothing against the queen mother, it's simply that this space was predominantly reflective of one tradition and as the Mayor for all the people of this city, the parlor should reflect all the traditions in this city."

Ó Donnghaile has left two spaces free and is seeking suggestions from the city's ethnic minorities on what should be placed on the two currently vacant walls.

Since taking up office three weeks ago, the lord mayor has been praised by commentators for being the first Sinn Féin mayor to attend events on the loyalist Shankill Road as well as attending the Presbyterian General Assembly in the city.

However, the removal of some royal artifacts from his parlor has angered unionist councilors.

The DUP's Christopher Stalford said the removal of royal portraits will "cause hurt" in his community.

"Her majesty, the queen mother was a much loved public figure on all sides of the community and the Prince of Wales has engaged in marvelous work helping young people through the Prince's Trust," Stalford said.

"The exclusion of their portraits will cause hurt in the community and the lord mayor needs to reflect on that.

"I would urge the lord mayor to show positive leadership and reverse his decision. You cannot reach out acrossboundaries whilst practizing acts of exclusion like this."