New mayor more lad than lord

Sinn Féin has created history in Belfast by electing the city's youngest ever lord mayor.

Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile, who is 25, became the city's first citizen last week and said that in the wake of his election that he wanted to bring fresh ideas to the role and represent all the people of the city.

As the largest party on Belfast City Council, Sinn Féin had the first choice of nominating one of their 16 councilors for the role of lord mayor.

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The council election earlier this month saw nationalists eclipse unionist as the majority on the council for the first time.

On Tuesday of last week - two days before the mayoral vote - Sinn Féin, SDLP_and Alliance joined forces to vote down unionist attempts to form a pact on the council which would have denied parties committee chairs on the basis of party strength.

Speaking after taking up his role as lord mayor, the fluent Irish speaker said: "I intend to work with all of the council members and that includes the deputy mayor and her fellow members of the DUP."

He said he felt privileged to be offered the position, despite having been a councilor for just three weeks.

"Sinn Féin are willing to put younger political activists forward for leadership roles and I am very proud to be put forward by the party.

"Many young people in our city do feel overlooked, left out and lost. The onus is not just on the council but on us as people within Belfast to give them a voice."

The new lord mayor said he intended to represent all of the people of the city.

"I do want to be a mayor for all, not just unionists, loyalists, but republicans and nationalists and many different people who make up our city.

"I am confident that we can move the city forward in this new term."

However, it seems that the hand of friendship being offered by Mr. Ó Donnghaile will not be reciprocated by the deputy lord mayor.

The DUP's Ruth Patterson snubbed the newly elected mayor after Thursday's council meeting.

It came after Ó Donnghaile offered his congratulations to Mrs. Patterson - but she did not acknowledge him.

"I wanted to wish her congratulations, it is unfortunate she refused to accept them," Ó Donnghaile said.

Alderman Robin Newton, DUP group leader on the council, said his party was committed to a positive agenda in Belfast.

"Ruth Patterson has been a councilor for more than ten years. She knows how Council meetings should be conducted and what the protocol is for such occasions.

"She will be a fine ambassador for our city and brings a wealth of experience and dynamism to the role which others can only aspire to," he said.