27/05/2011

Youngest Ever Mayor For Belfast

A 25-year-old Sinn Fein activist who was only recently elected as a new member of Belfast City Council, as a representative for the Pottinger ward of east Belfast, last night became Belfast's youngest ever Lord Mayor.

Niall Ó Donnghaile was already a full time party activist, joining the party at the age of 16, and was Sinn Fein's Press Officer in the Stormont Assembly.

Educated through the Irish Medium sector, Councillor Ó Donnghaile (who is pictured here) is a politics graduate and a fluent Irish speaker who actively campaigns on language rights and equality.

He was born and bred in the Short Strand area of the city where he is well known for his community work. He is a member of the Short Strand Partnership Board, which lobbies for economic and social regeneration in east Belfast.

A GAA enthusiast, Councillor Ó Donnghaile is an avid support of the County Down football team.

Councillor Ó Donnghaile succeeds the SDLP's Pat Convery who handed over the chain of office at last night's meeting in Belfast City Hall.

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

Snubbed
News Image
Councillor Ruth Patterson from the DUP was elected Deputy Lord Mayor and went straight into controversy after she snubbed the newly elected Sinn Fein first citizen.

Niall O 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," Mr O Donnghaile said.

Today, while Mrs Patterson was not available, a statement from her party backed her position.

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 councillor 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," the statement said, but also noted a recent rule change in how top council positions are allocated.

Now, these are to be handed out on the basis of party strength and not that of political groupings.

See: Joint City Hall Unionist Grouping Defeated

(BMcC/GK)

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