Nichola Mallon elected Belfast Lord Mayor as women hold sway at City Hall
Belfast will be led by an entirely female management team for the first time in its history.
SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon was last night elected by Belfast City Council to serve as Lord Mayor.
Alliance councillor Maire Hendron has been elected to serve as deputy Lord Mayor alongside DUP councillor Lydia Patterson who is currently High Sheriff.
Last night was the last meeting for Chief Executive Peter McNaney who is stepping aside after 30 years to take up the post of chairman of the Belfast Trust.
His successor Suzanne Wylie completes the female line-up.
Taking up the famous Lord Mayor’s chain, Ms Mallon paid tribute to her predecessor Mairtin O Muilleoir.
“It’s a tremendous honour to be appointed as the Lord Mayor of Belfast,” she said.
“I want to congratulate Mairtin O Muilleoir on a fantastic year in office and thank my own party for nominating me to take on such a privileged position.
“I want to take the Lord Mayor’s role out of City Hall and into people’s lives — their homes, their communities, their places of work.
“I want to connect with those who at times feel invisible in our city.
“I want to celebrate and showcase our unsung heroes who really are Belfast’s first citizens.
“Belfast is a city for everyone. Where everyone belongs and where we are all the better for having each other.
“I look forward to the months ahead in my new role.”
The 34-year-old has been a councillor since she was co-opted in 2010 and was re-elected last week for the Oldpark area of north Belfast. Her recent employment was as special advisor to SDLP Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
Ms Hendron dedicated her year as Deputy Lord Mayor to her husband Jim, a founding member of the Alliance Party.
“This is an unusual set of circumstances where someone coming to the end of their political career has been elevated to this position,” she told the council.
“I thank my group for that honour.”
Unanimously, warm tributes were paid from across the chamber to outgoing Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir who told the chamber it had been his pleasure to serve.
Sinn Fein group leader Jim McVeigh said: “Thank you for the sterling work you have done this year, we asked you to knock ’em dead and you did.”
DUP councillor Gavin Robinson praised his energy and quipped: “The energiser bunny gave up a long time ago trying to keep up with you.”
Ulster Unionist councillor David Browne added: “You have been an excellent lord mayor, there is no one could say other than that.”
There was also universal praise for outgoing Deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford.
He told the chamber that there had been many highlights for him including representing the city at Remembrance events and raising money for disaster relief in the Philippines last November.
Earlier in the meeting, parties paid their respects to former PUP councillor Hugh Smyth who died earlier this year.
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said Mr Smyth would be honoured with a mural.
- New Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon is only the third woman to hold the post in the history of the council.
- The first was Ulster Unionist Grace Bannister in 1981 and the second was Alliance woman Naomi Long in 2009.
- This is the first time there has ever been an all-female team with women serving as Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor, High Sheriff and Chief Executive.