Belfast Telegraph

I will not be cowed, says Belfast's first citizen

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Amid the carnival scenes of the World Police and Fire Games in recent days came the images of a mob attacking Belfast's first citizen.

The violence directed at Mairtin O Muilleoir was the first time a Lord Mayor of the city had been injured by attackers.

Following the incident at Woodvale Park, as a result of which Mr O Muilleoir attended hospital, he vowed he would not be deterred from travelling to any areas in the city.

It was a pledge he made when he took over the position from the DUP's Gavin Robinson in June and he's certainly not the first Lord Mayor wanting to reach across a divided city.

Mr Robinson and his predecessor Niall O Donnghaile of Sinn Fein both carried out duties among all sections of the community.

Mr O Donnghaile, who lives in the nationalist enclave of Short Strand in east Belfast, became first citizen in 2011.

He made history by becoming the republican first citizen to visit the loyalist Shankill Road.

He said one of the contributions he was most proud of from his time in the role was that he had visited numerous loyalist areas.

"I am very, very proud I was able to do that – proud for me, proud for the party that I come from, but also for the city," he said, reflecting on his time in office.

Attending a Duke of Edinburgh awards event, he avoided giving a prize to a teenager who was a military cadet and came under fire.

But Mr O Donnghaile apologised repeatedly for "offence caused" and said that the affair did not reflect the celebratory tone of his time in office.

His successor, Mr Robinson, was also widely praised for his cross-community work throughout the city.

He was also the first DUP politician to join the panel at Pride Talks Back, during Pride Week.

Yesterday, Mr O Muilleoir reiterated his vow to continue serving as Lord Mayor for all in Belfast.

After it emerged unionist politicians had appealed to him not to attend Tuesday's event, Mr O Muilleoir said he would be a "poor first citizen" if he let the thugs who attacked him decide where he could and could not go.

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