Belfast Telegraph

Next mayor of Belfast Arder Carson is unveiled by new council

By Rebecca Black

The Sinn Fein man who will become the first Lord Mayor of the new Belfast City Council has said the centenaries of both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme will be among the highlights of his year.

Arder Carson from Andersonstown is a veteran of Lisburn Council where he said the powerful DUP group blocked his party from any of the top positions.

Last night Belfast City Council agreed to give him the top mayoral position in the region.

Mr Carson said he was greatly honoured by the post.

DUP councillor Guy Spence was nominated as the new Deputy Lord Mayor. At the age of 23, he is believed to be one of the youngest ever to serve in the mayoral office in Belfast.

Mr Carson and Mr Spence will take up their positions next Wednesday, April 1, when the new enlarged Belfast city council replaces the old council. They will take over from the current SDLP Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon and her Alliance deputy Maire Hendron.

All of the old 26 councils in Northern Ireland will be replaced by 11 larger councils on April 1, which have been sitting in shadow format since last May. The new councils will take on some added responsibilities such as planning powers.

Mr Carson described April 1 as the start of a new era for the city, and a "game-changer".

"If we get planning right, the difference for the city will be significant," he said.

The Sinn Fein man worked as a butcher for 14 years, before moving into youth work. He said his priority in his year as mayor is connecting with people.

"I want the citizens to be at the heart of what this council does. In my year as mayor I will be putting the citizens at the heart of council," he said.

The Sinn Fein man described "two momentous occasions" set to take place during his term - the centenary of the 1916 Rising and the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

"We will be marking both of those occasions with due regard and respect," he said. "I would like people to be able to look forward with a positive attitude, but also to remember with respect."

When asked by the Belfast Telegraph whether he planned to take part in Battle of the Somme commemorations, Mr Carson did not rule it out, but said it would be a decision for his party.

In 2014 Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir became the first in his party in Belfast to take part in an Armistice Day event.

Background

The current Belfast City Council will be replaced on April 1 by a new bigger model which has been sitting in shadow form since last May.

The new council takes in parts of the old Castlereagh and Lisburn councils, and will have more powers, including over planning.

Across Northern Ireland the 26 existing councils will be replaced by 11 super-councils.

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