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1 June 2000 Edition

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Prospect of two Sinn Féin mayors

The prospect is growing that both Belfast and Derry will have Sinn Féin mayors in place by next week, although unionist die-hards are attempting to prevent the historic appointments of Alex Maskey and Cathal Crumley.

That Maskey could be in place as Belfast's ``firsst citizen'' by today (Thursday 1 June) is causing palpitations in unionist circles.

Most have declared their hands, saying there is no chance they will vote for Sinn Féin's longest-serving councillor. However, the spotlight is on the Alliance Party and whether its councillors will adhere to their much vaunted commitment to power sharing and support the Sinn Féin nominee.

Already one Alliance councillor, Danny Dow, has resigned from the party in protest at its public pronouncements in favour of voting Maskey into the mayoralty.

It is interesting to note that the UDP and PUP, the respective mouthpieces of the UDA and UVF, are taking time out from their `war of words' on the streets of Belfast to declare that they will vote against Maskey.

As the battle for Mayor of Derry approaches its denoument Cathal Crumley is the ``bookies' favourite'' to take the seat. Nevertheless, that political siren of unionism, Gregory Campbell, has called on unionists to treat Crumley as a ``pariah'', while erstwhile UDA kingpin Glen Barr maintains that it isn't the right time for a Sinn Féin mayor.

The problem for unionists is that there is never a right time for agreement with republicans in particular and nationalists in general.

The argument, therefore, around electing Sinn Féin mayors has its roots in the debate over equality. The challenge for unionists in both Derry and Belfast is this: either they are for democracy or they are against it.
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