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NI Election: O Muilleoir's vision of new Belfast 'lacks room for unionists'

By Staff Reporter

A Sinn Fein MLA once hailed as a progressive Belfast Lord Mayor who reached across the sectarian divide has been criticised for setting out a vision of the city that excludes many unionists.

In a blog post, former Stormont minister Mairtin O Muilleoir evoked a popular Van Morrison song, writing that the election results had provided "a good day for the Bright Side of the Road people". But the MLA's upbeat article appeared to exclude many unionists.

"My pledge is to work to deliver on the vision of a new Belfast that is being demanded not just by Sinn Fein voters but also by those who voted for the SDLP, Alliance and Green Party," wrote the former Finance Minister.

"And, indeed, by the many Ulster Unionists who decided to transfer to (and return) nationalist candidates rather than bolster the fading fortunes of the DUP.

"I view them all as Bright Side of the Road people."

Writing on Facebook, Maurice Kinkead - chief executive of EastSide Partnership in east Belfast - said that while he doesn't normally comment on political matters, "the latest blog from my good friend Mairtin O Muilleoir annoyed me enough to do so".

He wrote: "It looks like Mairtin's vision of a 'new Belfast' includes everyone except the 'fading DUP' and any UUs who failed to transfer to nationalists. I'm not a unionist, but I'd like any 'new Belfast' to have room for everyone."

Mr Kinkead, whose organisation staged Morrison's 70th birthday gig in Belfast's Cyprus Avenue in 2015, added: "Surely any vision of a 'new Belfast', if it has room for the people who during a previous 'campaign' bombed Belfast and killed its citizens and visitors alike, also has room for those who find it hard to 'move on' and even if they are moving on they are not necessarily moving on to a 'unified and reconciled Ireland'."

Responding, Mr O Muilleoir said: "Maurice, many people were hurt in the past, and many sides did the hurting, but there's a seat at the front of my bus for everyone who treats the other with respect and as a fellow first-class citizen."

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