Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein backs new Lord Mayor as DUP accuses him of 'politicising' office

Belfast Lord Mayor Daniel Baker with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald
Belfast Lord Mayor Daniel Baker with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald
George Dorrian

By Mark McConville

Sinn Fein has rejected claims the new Lord Mayor of Belfast disrespected the role when he wore the chain of office as party leaders gave political interviews.

Daniel Baker wore the mayoral chain outside City Hall on Friday alongside Sinn Fein representatives who were briefing the media on the Stormont talks.

This prompted concern from DUP group leader on Belfast City Council George Dorrian, who said that Mr Baker "has already failed to act as a Lord Mayor for all".

"As First Citizen of the city, the holder of the position of Lord Mayor is expected to step aside from a party political role for the duration of his term of office," he added.

"It is entirely inappropriate for councillor Baker to wear the Lord Mayor chain of office alongside Sinn Fein party leaders giving political interviews at City Hall.

"It is regrettable that Sinn Fein cannot respect the diplomatic role of this position, but instead they abuse it for narrow party political purpose."

His claims were rejected by Sinn Fein who said that Mr Baker "is fully committed to being a Mayor for everyone in Belfast and continuing to drive the city forward".

"Following his election on Tuesday, Danny Baker held his first meeting with the leadership of Sinn Fein in his capacity as Mayor of Belfast," the party added.

"It's not unusual for Mayors to hold official engagements with party representatives to set out a vision for the term ahead.

"The Mayor was also going directly to a number of other official engagements immediately after the meeting with his party leaders."

Mr Baker was installed as Belfast Lord Mayor at a ceremony last Wednesday.

He was described as "a proven community activist" by predecessor John Finucane, who relinquished the role on his election as North Belfast MP earlier this month.

Mr Finucane said the 37-year-old will be dedicated to Belfast and will be an "exceptional Mayor for all".

As a councillor, he represents the Colin ward, where he topped the poll in May's local government election.

He has been a Sinn Fein activist since 2005.

He previously served as the party's director of elections in west Belfast and first entered the council to replace David Bell, who stepped down in December 2017.

Mr Finucane held the post of Lord Mayor since May.

He took up the role days after he was first elected to the city council for the Castle ward in north Belfast.

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