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28 June 2001 Edition

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Alliance play unionist card to deny Maskey

The Alliance Party decision not to support Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey for the Mayor of Belfast has caused anger among nationalists and republicans alike.

Despite being the biggest party on the council, with some 35,000 first preference votes in the last local government election, Sinn Féin is still barred from holding the number post on Belfast City Council.

Speaking after the diminished Alliance Party, which voted for Sinn Féin last year, sided with the UUP's Jim Rodgers, Maskey accused Alliance of ``reinforcing discrimination''.

Added Maskey: ``The Alliance Party are now directly responsible for bolstering the continued discrimination at Belfast City Hall''.

Alliance Party spokespersons attempted to justify their refusal to support Sinn Féin by claiming that the party hadn't delivered in the year that Marie Moore was elected as Deputy Mayor with the help of Alliance councillors.

On Alliance's shopping list for supporting Sinn Féin was that they wanted Sinn Féin to attend `Armistice Day' ceremonies, commemorating the British Army's war dead at the Cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, and to meet members of the British Royal family. They also criticised Sinn Féin over the issue of decommissioning.

Responding, Maskey said: ``I am an Irish republican and I represent 35,000 voters in the city of Belfast.'' He branding as a ``smokescreen'' Alliance's criticism over decommissioning. Only one nationalist has held the mayoralty in Belfast in the last 100 years.

In the vote for Mayor UUP man Jim Rodgers won by 28 to 23 while Hugh Smyth of the PUP, which is allied to the UVF, was installed as Deputy Mayor by 15 votes to ten for the DUP.

Alliance abstained in that vote.

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