Ex-mayor hits back at the 'grey suits' critical of her time in office
Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister has hit back at "men in grey suits" on Belfast City Council after one her colleagues labelled her "one of the most political Lord Mayors ever".
The Alliance councillor, whose term as first citizen ended earlier this month, was slammed by unionists for being too "political" during her time in office.
UUP Alderman Jim Rodgers, himself a former Lord Mayor, claimed that Ms McAllister "should have put her office ahead of her politics".
"The Lord Mayor is a civic leader and they are there to represent the whole community of Belfast. Sadly Nuala McAllister was one of the most political Lord Mayors that I've ever come across, which is disappointing."
Ms McAllister was criticised when she did not read from the Bible at the beginning of council meetings. She also campaigned for reforms to legislation on abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland during her time in office.
Last week Ms McAllister made a public apology for distributing a 2016 campaign leaflet under the headline "What have they got to hide?", which opposition councillors said accused them of corruption and an ombudsman investigation followed.
DUP councillor Lee Reynolds also weighed into the debate.
He said: "Everyone elected to the position of Lord Mayor has their own political beliefs and causes they believe passionately in.
"However, the expectation and practice was to set those aside as much as possible to fulfil their civic duty to every citizen of the city.
"In the past Alliance roundly condemned a unionist Lord Mayor for acting politically when he refused to wear the chain of office to meet the Lord Mayor of Dublin in Belfast City Hall.
"He justified his actions on his political beliefs and they did not accept that as justification. This makes their new stance hypocritical."
Ms McAllister, taking to social media to respond to Councillor Rodgers' comments, said: "It would appear that men in grey suits in council don't like me having my own opinions but I won't stop standing up for what I believe in. I make no apologies for wanting Belfast to be a more inclusive society, leadership is required to correct treatment of marginalised in NI."
Naomi Long MLA, Alliance Party leader, defended Ms McAllister and challenged Cllr Rodgers about an incident during his time as mayor, when a Belfast City Council worker was injured when he attempted to leapfrog her during a photoshoot.