Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor isn't troubled by royal portraits

John Finucane (Liam McBurney/PA)
John Finucane (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Lord Mayor of Belfast has said he isn't troubled by portraits of the royal family in his office in City Hall, but he wants to see parity of representation.

John Finucane said he believes his office, which is currently decorated with portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother, needs to represent everyone in the city.

He's hung a copy of the UN Declaration of Human Rights to add to the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, which was added by his predecessor and fellow Sinn Fein representative Deirdre Hargey.

The 39-year-old Sinn Fein mayor has been in his role for six weeks. On his first day in office, he welcomed Prince Charles to Belfast.

“I think there is a duty on whoever holds this office and wears this chain, whatever their political background, that when you are the first citizen of Belfast, it is a civic duty to be pushing reconciliation as much as possible," he said.

He said he believes the skills he learned in his career as a lawyer are transferable to a career in politics.

"You are there to represent people, to help your own community, to help people in the community and depending on the role that you’re in, shape areas beyond your own community," he said.

"I think my career as a solicitor has given me a good grounding."

Mr Finucane said his family history - his solicitor father Pat was murdered by paramilitaries 30 years ago - has "exposed me to the worst politics can produce and the best".

He said republicans were once "marginalised and demonised" in their own city.

Now, he said, Sinn Fein is the largest party on Belfast City Council.

He said his own career will not be a flash in the pan.

"I don’t think it’s something you can dip your toes into. Either you’re serious about this or you’re not," he said.

It's believed John Finucane is seen by his party as a potential future candidate to go up against the DUP's Nigel Dodds in a bid for the North Belfast Westminster seat.

Mr Finucane said it's "not a priority" but that he would be happy for his name to go forward in the future.

One of his main themes for his year in office is the promotion of Belfast, especially areas outside the city centre.

"I want to push Belfast as an attractive destination for investment, for tourism and not just to get people into the city centre and leave, or to invest and leave," he says.

"I want them to enjoy all of Belfast and make sure the benefit of that goes to the entire community."

Mr Finucane said he recognises that the environment is now also a major consideration for the citizens of Belfast and wider areas and that politicians have awakened to the fact that it is a priority for many.

The Lord Mayor plans to continue with his predecessor Tom Hartley's commitment to plant more trees to give a green appearance to the city and enhance air quality.

He added that he believes big businesses should try harder to upskill young people and provide green spaces to deliver more to Belfast in terms of investment.

He didn't advocate that mayors should have greater powers, saying that it would undermine the diversity of the city council, in which eight parties are currently represented.

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