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Obituary: UUP's Billy Bell, the first to be a mayor of two cities


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Billy Bell receives the Lord Mayor of Belfast’s chain of office from David Cook in 1979

Billy Bell receives the Lord Mayor of Belfast’s chain of office from David Cook in 1979

Billy Bell

Billy Bell

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Billy Bell receives the Lord Mayor of Belfast’s chain of office from David Cook in 1979

Former UUP MLA Billy Bell, who has died at the age of 84, will be remembered as Northern Ireland's first mayor of two cities.

William Bradshaw (Billy) Bell was born in Belfast on October 9, 1935, to Robert and Mary Ann Bell and educated at Fane Street Primary School and Grosvenor High School.

Mr Bell worked in marketing and public relations, running Billy Bell Promotions.

He entered politics in 1975, serving as a Belfast councillor until 1985, and was the Ulster Unionist spokesman on housing from 1976-79.

He was selected to be the city's Lord Mayor in 1979 and said that one of the highlights during his term in office was giving the Freedom of the City to the RUC and UDR.

When asked by this newspaper in 2015 about his worst moments of that year, he said: "Everything was still a bit dodgy in Belfast, but everybody got on. Trouble was still very prevalent."

He had previously been elected as a member of the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention of 1975-1976.

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Mr Bell was elected to Lisburn Borough Council in 1989 and served as mayor in 2003.

He was elected to the Assembly between 1982 and 1986, and later was an MLA for Lagan Valley in the new Assembly in 1998, serving until retiring from political life in 2007.

He was UUP spokesman for finance and served on many public bodies including the boards of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and Housing Executive.

He was personal assistant to former UUP leader Jim Molyneaux for 20 years.

Lagan Valley UUP MLA Robbie Butler, who was mentored by Mr Bell, said: "Billy was one of those people who was held in very high esteem, even by those who may have regarded themselves as political opponents.

"Although he was a proud unionist to his core, Billy wanted to make politics work in Northern Ireland and to find a path to a better, peaceful and more prosperous future for all our people.

"Billy, like the late Ivan Davis, was a member of the original Assembly team of 1998.

"Both men supported and mentored me in my political career and for their support, advice, kindness and wisdom, I will be eternally grateful.

"Billy made friends far more easily than he made enemies and the word I have heard most often associated with him was 'gentleman'.

"He will be fondly remembered not just by his fellow Ulster Unionists, but by people right across Northern Ireland, and indeed far beyond."

Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh Nicholas Trimble said: "Billy saw Lisburn as his home and was very proud of the progress made in Lisburn during both his time serving as an elected representative and as a resident."

Mr Bell, who passed away on Tuesday, is survived by his wife Leona, son Willie, daughters Julie-Anne, Leona and Kathryn; grandchildren Stuart, Charlotte, Rebecca, Anna, Leona, Debbie, Stephen and Amy; and great-grandchildren Ava and Kealan.

His remains will rest at James Brown & Sons, Lisburn Road, Belfast, before a private funeral service tomorrow at Dundonald Cemetery.

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