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New Belfast deputy mayor Paul McCusker hails city for its compassion

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Honoured: Paul McCusker

Honoured: Paul McCusker

Honoured: Paul McCusker

The next Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast has said he is proud that the city has shown compassion during the coronavirus crisis by protecting its most vulnerable.

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker, who works with the homeless, said he was honoured to be nominated for the position.

The DUP's Frank McCoubrey has been chosen by his party as the next Lord Mayor. The men will be installed in a ceremony in City Hall on Monday night.

Mr McCusker said the coronavirus pandemic made it a crucial time for civic leadership. "While other cities across the world have introduced cold, uncaring policies, Belfast has been able look after our most vulnerable," he said.

"I've been working to support food banks across the city and see the incredible effort that our volunteers are putting in to support those in need.

"We've managed to provide shelter to every rough sleeper in the city, keeping them safe at a difficult time. There's no reason it can't be like this all the time. We don't need a crisis to care for those in need."

He added: "The next phase of this crisis will bring further hardship to Belfast. I'm committed to doing all I can to secure a fair and just recovery for the people of our city, defending their livelihoods, insulating our economy and making sure support is there for anyone who needs it."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said there was "no better ambassador for Belfast" than Mr McCusker.

"He has been working to help the city's most vulnerable, providing advice, support and food for those in desperate need," Mr Eastwood said. "I know that he will be a first class representative for all the people of the city."

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party has called on the council to develop a clear strategy to help the city's recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The party's group leader in City Hall Michael Long said a task force should be established including the council, Assembly, and key stakeholders in a similar style response to the Primark fire.

"The effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be with us long after the initial threat has gone," he said.

"We need to tackle the impact on our businesses and economy, as well as help those in poverty and who are vulnerable in a more effective way.

"But alongside this we cannot allow the few benefits of lockdown - in terms of environmental impact and the increased sense of community - to go to waste."

Belfast Telegraph