Niall Ó Donnghaile became the youngest Mayor in the history of the city
of Belfast last year, he set out to be Mayor for all the citizens of
our city, particularly those among us who felt marginalized or
Wednesday of this week the Mayor will host a conference entitled
‘Celebrating Life’, this event will highlight the devastating effect of
suicide upon our families and communities and aims to raise awareness
around positive mental health and suicide prevention.
has made a particular effort to reach out to Unionists and working
class Loyalist communities in particular, across this city.Within
weeks of taking office he visited the Artability Centre on the Shankill
Road to show his solidarity for the work they do with severely disabled
adults and to assist them in their battle to secure necessary funding
to continue their work.Funding that had ironically cut by a Unionist Minister!
he visited Hope Nursery School on the Shankill Road again, to support
their bid for an award that would allow them to develop their play
facilities.He has visited the Suffolk estate on a number
of occasions, he joined former President Mary McAleese on a visit to the
East Belfast Mission and I could list many more such engagements in
which the Mayor has taken a leadership role. This outreach and
engagement is something that is very personal for Niall and something
that he believes very passionately in.
this year Niall, along with the rest of the Sinn Féin team, supported a
proposal before council to fund Jubilee celebrations to the amount of
fifty six thousand pounds.We recognise that these
important anniversaries, such as the signing of the Covenent and the
Somme and including the Jubilee, are hugely symbolic for the Unionist
and Loyalist community.
Féin respects these traditions and in our new United Ireland there will
be a respectful place for British culture and traditions.As
we approach an important decade of centenaries, from the Jubilee in
June through to the one hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising, to the
founding of the Northern State in 1922, we recognise that it is
important for us all to do so in a spirit of mutual respect and
was with this in mind that last year, following the elections in May,
we came to an agreement with the DUP that the current Mayor would step
aside a few days early to allow a DUP Mayor to take up office in time
for the Jubilee. By this stage Niall have already spent over a year in
office given that he was elected on the 26th May last year.
Contrary to this being a snub to anyone, rather we were trying to accommodate Unionists.We were conscious that the Jubilee celebrations were a big deal for Unionists and therefore we offered to accommodate them.
Ironically at the time of those discussions, Niall might not have been aware that Sinn Féin had chosen him to take up the role.
For the Telegraph to suggest that he had chosen to ‘snub’ the British Queen was ridiculous and offensive.It
was above all else unfair to a young man who has done his absolute best
to be a good Mayor and a Mayor to all the citizens of this great city.
we debate this matter there is no indication whatsoever that any member
of the British Royalty, never mind the Queen herself, will be visiting
Belfast that week.To be accused by the Telegraph of
refusing to do something that he hadn’t been asked to do in the first
place was wrong and unfair to the Mayor.
The lead headline was a badly chosen one.
Niall Ó Donnghaile has been a breath of fresh air for this city.He has given great leadership at a time of great economic distress.Almost
single handedly he has helped change the perception of this is city
abroad, from a depressed city emerging from conflict, to a vibrant
dynamic modern city well worth investing in and well worth a visit.Credit where credit is due and Niall Ó Donnghaile deserves a great deal of credit for his year in office.