DUP's Christopher Stalford set to be new Belfast Lord Mayor... if he doesn’t end up at Stormont
The DUP is to nominate its first Lord Mayor of Belfast in almost four years, it can be revealed.
South Belfast councillor Christopher Stalford is rumoured to be the candidate being lined up.
The new Lord Mayor of Belfast and their deputy will be nominated at the next full meeting of Belfast City Council on June 1.
The Lord Mayoral term of Sinn Fein's Arder Carson is coming to an end.
He was the party's second first citizen in three years.
The DUP's Guy Spence is also finishing his term as Deputy Lord Mayor.
Earlier this week Mr Carson thanked councillors for working with him throughout the year.
The DUP has not formally announced who it plans to nominate as the next Lord Mayor, but it is understood Mr Stalford is the front-runner, while councillors Brian Kingston and Tommy Sandford are also being considered.
It is understood that the final decision will be made after the new Stormont Assembly is elected this weekend.
Mr Stalford is running to be an MLA in the South Belfast constituency.
If he is elected, he must stand down from the council under new Assembly rules against double-jobbing.
Sinn Fein has already announced it will nominate councillor Mary Ellen Campbell for Deputy Mayor at the June meeting.
That would make Ms Campbell the city's first openly gay Deputy Mayor.
She was one of three gay councillors to be elected in Belfast in 2014.
"Inclusion will be one of the themes of my term in office," she said.
"It's vital to promote positive messages and demonstrate public commitment to equality. I'm a woman, I'm openly gay, I'm a republican ex-prisoner and I'm from a working-class community in north Belfast.
"So I would say I have some experience of the challenges that many marginalised citizens face in Belfast."
Belfast agreed several years ago to start using the system of d'Hondt to allocate the top positions such as Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and committee chairs based on the strength of each of the parties elected to the council.
However, the system is not universally popular.
Last year a PUP proposal to use the Sainte-Lague system of allocating positions of responsibility rather than d'Hondt was voted down.
The loyalist party, which has three councillors, had argued the change would ensure more posts for the smaller parties at Belfast City Hall.
Under the d'Hondt system, Alliance is set to nominate the Lord Mayor in 2017, with the Ulster Unionist Party due to nominate a Deputy Lord Mayor.
In the following year, under the d'Hondt arrangements, it will be the turn of Sinn Fein to nominate Lord Mayor, with Alliance due to nominate a Deputy Lord Mayor.