Belfast Telegraph

Offbeat ex-Lord Mayor's City Hall portrait is a real diamond

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

He was the Belfast Lord Mayor famed for his tweets and selfies.

But a more lasting image of Mairtin O Muilleoir has been officially unveiled.

A diamond-shaped portrait of the Sinn Fein politician wearing running gear and without his mayoral chain is to hang in the corridors of Belfast City Hall as a permanent reminder of his year in office.

He said: "I wanted a piece which, while offbeat, echoes the vibrancy and fun of Belfast and speaks to the momentum and drive which a mayor needs equally to run the city or run the towpath.

"I also pay homage to the wonderful Northern Ireland Hospice, where my father died 10 years ago this week, by wearing a T-shirt they presented to me."

The painting is by Dublin-based artist Robert Ballagh, who has known the politician and businessman for years.

"This was an opportunity I couldn't turn down," the artist said.

"Mairtin did great things during his time as Lord Mayor and I wanted to create a piece that would complement his great love for Belfast. To have another one of my pieces displayed in City Hall is very special."

In the past Sinn Fein Lord Mayors opted for less traditional portraits. Niall O'Donnghaile, Belfast's youngest ever first citizen, commissioned a well-known mural painter whose work includes the Bobby Sands image on the side of the Sinn Fein office on the city's Falls Road to depict him.

Last month Mr O Muilleoir was co-opted to represent South Belfast in the Northern Ireland Assembly as a replacement for Alex Maskey, who took the party's West Belfast seat after Sue Ramsey stood down due to ill health.

He has also been selected as the party's Westminster candidate for the forthcoming general election.

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