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3 June 1999 Edition

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Sinn Féin councillor elected Deputy Mayor

by Laura Friel

It was a historic moment as Sinn Féin Councillor Marie Moore took her place as the duly elected deputy mayor for Belfast this week. ``When I started out years ago,'' a beaming Marie Moore told An Phoblacht, ``I never imagined I'd become Belfast's deputy mayor.'' Formally bedecked with her chain of office and taking her seat beside the new mayor, Ulster Unionist Bob Stoker, Marie described her election as ``the beginning of a new era''. An era in which all the citizens of the city would be properly represented.

The dignity with which the first woman in Sinn Féin to be elected as deputy mayor accepted her chain of office contrasted with the angry scenes which preceded the election. The support of the Alliance Party and SDLP, which secured the post for Sinn Féin, was condemned by the DUP, who demanded a recorded vote. Despite unionist opposition, Councillor Moore was returned by 26 votes to 25.

Several unionists left the chamber as the new deputy mayor promised to ``leave no stone unturned'' in trying to work with everyone, even those who don't support her. Congratulations extended by the deputy to the mayor on his election success remained unreciprocated as the visibly stunned Ulster Unionist watched fellow unionists desert the hall.

``Seventeen years ago, Alex Maskey was returned to this council as the sole elected member of Sinn Féin,'' said Marie. ``Since then, Sinn Féin has campaigned for equality, fairness and proportionality throughout the civic structure.'' All parties have the right to proper access to civic positions, she said.

``Tonight, the right of our electorate to be recognised fairly has been asserted.'' Describing the role of deputy mayor of Belfast as a challenge, Marie said she hoped to work hard to represent all the citizens of the city, challenging divisions and building links between communities.

Sinn Féin's electoral rise in the city of Belfast began in the early 1980s. Since the election of Alex Maskey in 1983, the party has risen to become the largest in Belfast city council, returning 13 councillors, just ahead of the Ulster Unionists. Sinn Féin's meteoric rise, in what was once considered the seat of unionist power, is the fruit of consistent hard working activists on the ground.

It has often been hazardous as well as arduous. In the late 1980s, Sinn Féin's electoral gains were followed by an intense campaign of intimidation by unionists and loyalist paramilitaries. Within the council chambers, Sinn Féin members were verbally and physically attacked, while on the outside, 12 party members were killed in loyalist attacks.

Marie Moore was elected as a councillor for the Lower Falls in May 1993. During her six years as an elected representative, Marie has sat on various committees and subcommittees, including health, environment and policy and resources. She is currently deputy chairperson of the contracts committee. In another significant victory, Marie Moore and party colleague Sean Hayes were elected onto two statutory bodies last July.  
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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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