Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Tom Hartley departs Belfast City Hall as 'a much better place'

By Rebecca Black

One of the longest serving and most popular councillors in Belfast has stood down from the City Hall.

After 20 years, Sinn Fein strategist and historian Tom Hartley took part in his final meeting on Monday night.

His party colleagues Danny Lavery and Gerard O'Neill have also stood down.

It is understood that Sinn Fein will hold a selection meeting this week to pick replacements for the trio.

Mr Hartley (right) was first elected to the council in 1993 for the Lower Falls ward and told the Belfast Telegraph that it had been an honour to have represented the area in which he grew up and also to have served as Sinn Fein's second Lord Mayor in 2008

"It has been 20 years of my life, I've seen a lot of change, seen a lot of people come and go," he said.

"People have said to me are you retiring, but I'm not, just stepping down from the council, I'll continue as party archivist and I'll be writing a new book on the history of Milltown Cemetery."

He said the centenary of the start of the First World War next year is something which Sinn Fein will be considering how to mark.

Mr Hartley was the first member of Sinn Fein to attend a First World War commemoration service at Islandbridge in Dublin in 1994.

The present Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir is currently in talks with the Royal British Legion and the Somme Association about finding a way he can become the first republican to take part in an act of remembrance.

Councillors from across the chamber paid tribute to the three men at Monday evening's meeting, with Ulster Unionist group leader David Browne even confessing that he felt a little upset about their departure.

DUP group leader on the council Lee Reynolds described the departure of the members as a "generational shift" in the chamber.

Mr Hartley thanked all the members for their kind words, and said the council was a "much better place" than it was in 1993.

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