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10 June 1999 Edition

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Unionist Lord Mayor excludes Sinn Féin


The first major decision of the newly elected Lord Mayor of Belfast, Bob Stoker, has been to bar 13 Belfast Sinn Féin councillors from the Lord Mayor's dinner at the end of the month.

Marie Moore, who was elected as Deputy Mayor to serve along side Stoker at the council's AGM just over a week ago, has also been excluded.

Moore says that on the night both she and Stoker were elected, the Ulster Unionist said he would be prepared to work with her. That promise has now been turned on its head as the politics of exclusion rear up again. Moore says she is ``angry and saddened that the Ulster Unionist Party have yet to accept the principle of inclusivity, for which the council recently voted''.

Stoker, an Orangeman, has denied claims that he has taken part in illegal street demonstrations aimed at stretching the RUC and British army during the 1998 Drumcree stand off. He said he had taken part in demonstrations in Sandy Row, but claimed they were legal: ``I have nothing to be ashamed of.''

Belfast City Council was for years the symbol of unionist domination in the North, especially since Stormont was prorogued in 1972. However, since Alex Maskey was first elected in 1983, Sinn Féin has fought hard to end the domination and discrimination practised by unionist politicians.

The high point of that struggle was the election, last week, of Marie Moore as Deputy Mayor, a sign that unionist domination of City Hall had ended. However Stoker's decision to snub the 13 Sinn Fein councillors harks back to the days when inequality and discrimination were the watchwords of unionism.
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