Belfast Telegraph

O Muilleoir has to stick with mission

Editor's Viewpoint

The lord mayor's post in Belfast is a largely ceremonial one, but the incumbent has one very important role, to be first citizen. By implication that means representing all the citizens irrespective of political or religious beliefs. This was a role performed admirably by the last two lord mayors, both youthful and both from diametrically opposed backgrounds – Niall O Donnghaile of Sinn Fein and Gavin Robinson of the DUP – who carried out duties among all sections of the community.

Mairtin O Muilleoir, the present lord mayor, was engaged in similar outreach when he was the victim of what police described as an appalling attack in which he and several police officers were injured. Quite rightly many people will condemn those who assaulted the lord mayor.

As a civic leader he should be respected for his role and allowed to perform his duties.

While many people may not agree with his party's politics, that is no excuse for such a cowardly assault.

Mr O Muilleoir's theme for his year in office is Building The Future Belfast Together.

It is a worthy ambition.

But the events on the Shankill yesterday shows that there is a still a long way to go before people learn to respect each other, never mind live together in harmony.

Certainly the assault may just have been the work of just a few thugs.

But the number of people waving professionally-printed messages of protest at the lord mayor show there was some element of pre-planning.

While the lord mayor was understandably shaken by his experience, he must press on with his plans to create a new dynamic in the city towards mutual understanding.

He must not be deterred by those who represent no one but their own blinkered view, influenced by the past rather than the future.

The majority of citizens want a lord mayor who represents all of them and will give him – and his ancient post – the respect he deserves as he pursues that role.

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