5 June 2008 Edition
Sinn Féin's Tom Hartley elected Mayor of Belfast
FALLS Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Hartley has been elected as Mayor of Belfast City. He is only the second Sinn Féin member to be elected as mayor of Belfast, the first being Alex Maskey in 2002.
Tom was elected on Monday evening in a close-run vote, pipping the DUP’s Diane Dodds to the post by 25 votes to 23.
Ulster Unionist David Browne was elected deputy mayor.
An angry Diane Dodds accused Browne of “opportunism” and doing a deal with Sinn Féin to get its backing for deputy mayor but he denied he had made a pact with Sinn Féin.
“I just wouldn’t vote for Diane Dodds,” the Ulster Unionist said. “I understand that Mrs Dodds is disappointed but that doesn’t excuse her behaviour. She is behaving like a spoilt child.”
Tom, who was brought up in Harrogate Street in the mid-Falls area of west Belfast, has been active in the Republican Movement for 40 years.
In 1970, he was charged with riotous behaviour and spent 10 months in Crumlin Road Jail; in 1978, he was again remanded for a number of months in Crumlin Road Jail on charges of “undermining the government”.
During the 1981 Hunger Strike, Tom was the chair of the POW Committee.
Within Sinn Féin he has held the positions of party chairperson and general secretary.
The 62-year-old mayor was first elected to Belfast City Council for the Lower Falls in 1993.
At the council meeting on Monday, Hartley was proposed for the position by fellow Sinn Féin Councillor Fra McCann and was seconded by Councillor Marie Cush.
Present in the chamber to witness the election of Tom to the position of mayor were his partner, Birgit, and a number of members of Tom’s family.
Also present were former H-Block O/C Seanna Walsh and veteran republicans Jim Gibney and Danny Morrison.
Mayor Hartley, in his inaugural speech, said:
“Those who know me know how much I love this city. I live in a great city, made great by its citizens.
“As mayor, I will engage and practice and operate within a broad understanding of citizenship. What will this entail? It entails building on a democratic, progressive and inclusive politic.
“Ownership of the city must be felt by all the citizens of Belfast.
“In particular, it needs to be extended to the disadvantaged, the underprivileged and the marginalised.
“Ownership must be felt by ethnic minorities, travellers, the new Beal Feirstians.
“Ownership must be felt by our senior citizens, our young people, by women, by members of the gay and lesbian community, the disabled and by marginalised working-class communities.
“As mayor, I will engage with these communities through operating an ‘open door’ policy.
“It will be my aim as mayor to help develop our city’s political culture away from a legacy of division and towards civic and cultural diversity. Can we turn what divides us into a diversity that enriches our city and the lives of its citizens?”
CELEBRATION: With the Sinn Féin team at Belfast City Hall