Belfast Telegraph

City's sixteen Lord Mayors mark end of a political era

By Amanda Ferguson

It's the end of an era.

Sixteen former Belfast Lord Mayors joined incumbent Nichola Mallon in City Hall yesterday to mark the end of the council in its current guise.

Formed in 1973, it is set to be replaced next month by a new council as part of Local Government Reform, with increased powers and responsibility for a larger geographical area.

Ms Mallon highlighted "the hard work, commitment and selflessness" of the 34 others who have occupied the post over the past 42 years.

She also reflected on the difficult past of the city and council.

"The contentious times we came through should not take away from the achievements of the various incarnations of the council, which played a pivotal role in bringing the city to where it is today," she said. "Belfast is now a city full of hope, full of ambition and with the potential to re-establish itself as a world-class city."

The first citizen said the council's decision to build the Waterfront Hall in the late 1980s had been the catalyst for the regeneration of Laganside in the 1990s and events such as Tall Ships. She said the MTV Europe Music Awards, plus the development of Titanic Belfast, were also pivotal in transforming the city.

"The city, once renowned for shipbuilding and linen, is reinventing itself at the leading edge of technology, establishing itself as a location of choice for major film and television programme-makers, and is matching cities on these islands with regard to attracting foreign direct investment," Ms Mallon added.

"The council has worked in partnership with key agencies across the city to put itself in this position, and I have no doubt that the new Belfast City Council will carry on this work.

"Our city will continue to be transformed and developed, while holding on tightly to the unique history and heritage that makes us what we are."

In their words...

James Stewart OBE (83)  UUP 1977-78

Three words: Exciting, satisfying, hopeful.

Best moments: People were nominated to spend a day at City Hall and we had a big party for the Jubilee.

Worst MOMENTS: Bombs. People being killed every day.

David Cook (71) Alliance Party 1978-79

Three words: Groundbreaking, innovative, challenging.

Best moments: Getting elected. It was 26 votes to 25. I was the first non-unionist party mayor.

Billy Bell (79) UUP 1979-80

Three words: Very interesting indeed.

Best moments: Giving the Freedom of the City to RUC and UDR.

Worst moments: Everything was still a bit dodgy in Belfast but everybody got on.

Worst moments: Trouble was still very prevalent.

John Carson CBE (81)  UUP 1980-81 and 1985-86

Three words: Enjoyed every second.

Best moments: Seeing people living as normal a life as possible.

Worst moments: Seeing the town ripped apart by terrorist activities.

Sammy Wilson (62) DUP 1986-87; 2000-1

Three words: Fun, hectic, rewarding.

Best moments: Politically, addressing the Ulster Says No rally with thousands present. The most satisfying was meeting people in informal situations.

Worst moments: What lives with me is going to a funeral of a person killed by the IRA. They had to delay it because a bomb was planted at Roselawn.

Eric Smyth (66) DUP 1995-96

Three words: Really enjoyed it.

Best moments: The Clinton visit. I loved meeting people and representing them.

Worst moments: Political battles with Sinn Fein.

Dr Ian Adamson (72) UUP 1996-97

Three words: The Waterfront Hall

Best moments: Opening the Waterfront was a great development. It was a year of peace and order coming to Northern Ireland.

Worst moments: The was still various altercations between the two parts of the community.

Alban Maginness (64) SDLP 1997-98

Three words: It was mould-breaking.

Best moments: Being the first nationalist and first Catholic was particularly special.

Worst moments: Hearing the death of Princess Diana.

David Alderdice (48) Alliance 1998-99

Three words: Uplifting, historic, privilege.

Best moments: Introducing President Clinton.

Worst moments: The Omagh bomb. I had to read the names of the victims.

Jim Rodgers (62)  UUP 2001-2 and 2007-8

Three words: Absolutely brilliant. Unbelievable.

Best moments: Breaking records for engagements I attended.

Worst moments: A photoshoot where I injured a council employee by pure accident.

Tom Ekin (75) Alliance Party 2004-5

Three words: Progress, progress, progress.

Best moments: Meetings with the Orange Order, St Patrick's Day pararding and gay Pride organisers.

Worst moments: When I couldn't achieve what I wanted to.

Lord Wallace Browne of Belmont (67) DUP 2005-6

Three words: Privilege, honour, enjoyable.

Best moments: Celebrating the life of George Best at his funeral and meeting Charles and Camilla.

Worst moments: Showing off by trying to ride a unicycle and I fell off.

Tom Hartley (69) Sinn Fein 2008-9

Three words: Brilliant, enjoyable, exhausting.

Best moments: You get to see so much of the city. A high was being on top of Goliath.

Worst moments: Being lowered into the tunnel under Belfast.

Naomi Long (43) Alliance Party 2009-10

Three words: Belfast without barriers.

Best moments: Reopening City Hall with Hillary Clinton, and the Tall Ships.

Worst moments: The intimidation of Roma families.

Niall O Donnghaile (29) Sinn Fein 2011-12

Three words: Exciting, daunting, hopeful.

Best moments: MTV, the Titanic centenary and Celebrating Life in and around suicide awareness.

Worst moments: In June there was a lot of bother with the UVF in Short Strand and also some of the protests around me.

Gavin Robinson (30) DUP 2012-13

Three words: Wonderful, positive, encouraging.

Best moments: Standing up for the city in different crises - floods, bus lanes and flags.

Worst moments: Having three crises to deal with.

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