31/05/2012

Outgoing Belfast Mayor Looks Back On Year In Office

The outgoing Lord Mayor of Belfast has cast an eye back over his year in the mayoral chain.

Sinn Fein's Niall O Donnghaile leaves office on Friday after being the party's third Belfast mayor.

He was a young mayor at just 25 and perhaps the stand-out memory of his tenure for many people will be his PR nightmare at an awards ceremony.

Attending a Duke of Edinburgh awards event, he avoided giving a prize to a teenager who was a military cadet and came under fire.

But Mr O Donnghaile has since apologised repeatedly for "offence caused" and said that the affair did not reflect the celebratory tone of his time in office.

He welcomed global superstars for the MTV concert, visited St James's Palace in London and marked the centenary of the Titanic's sinking.

But he said one of his most proud contributions was that he had visited loyalist areas often.

Mr O Donnghaile, who lives in the city centre's republican Short Strand area, said: "I am very, very proud I was able to do that - proud for me, proud for the party that I come from, but also for the city."

He said Belfast is now a changed city but the office of Lord mayor has not kept pace.

Mr O Donnghaile argued that the duties of office were created by unionists and reflected their biases, for example the tradition of attending formal Remembrance Sunday events.

He said the role of mayor would be transformed "as different people start to occupy it."

(NE/GK)

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