Maskey makes promise

An hour after he was elected as the city`s first republican mayor, the West Belfast Assembly member said his period in office would be “a model of tolerance for sharing power“.Mr Maskey, who was elected with the support of Sinn Fein colleagues, nationalist SDLP councillors and three members of the cross-community Alliance Party, urged unionists to keep an open mind on his election.“I would ask them to look, listen and learn.“Judge me on what they see me doing and saying.`

`Mr Maskey, who was Sinn Fein`s first councillor in Belfast in 1983, received 26 of the 51 votes in the City Hall today.He defeated Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey, who was on 15 votes, and Democratic Unionist Robin Newton, who received the support of 10 councillors.There was a cheer as the new Lord Mayor received his chain.However, no deputy was elected to serve alongside Mr Maskey as Unionists left the chamber in disgust.As he faced journalists on Belfast City Hall`s marble staircase, with the chain of office around his neck, Mr Maskey said: “I will not be found wanting.“Surely there can be no challenge to me about representing Unionism because they are not prepared to represent themselves.“They need to work with me, because people in Belfast cast their votes last year for a range of parties.“I am delighted to have made my party the largest party on this council, but we are only one of a number of parties in Belfast City Hall and we want to work and have promised to work with all the parties.“Mr Maskey noted that some Unionists returned to the chamber after their walk-out and were prepared, despite their opposition to him, to do business.As helicopters hovered in the city skyline monitoring the tense sectarian interface areas, Belfast`s new Lord Mayor said he was not arrogant enough to say that he would be able to end the violence.However, he added: “As I said in my acceptance speech, there are a number of important matters, including the serious and tragic conflict in these interface areas.“I want to work with the parties and the representatives of these communities.“It is not for me to tell these communities who represents them or who speaks on their behalf, but I can assure people here tonight that I will be reaching out, I will be seeking out partners for peace in these interface areas.“I think that is a critical piece of work that I pledge myself to engage in.“Supporters of Mr Maskey celebrated outside Belfast City Hall, forming a small cavalcade of cars with Irish tricolours flying from them.As they drove through the city centre, they sounded their car horns in celebration of the groundbreaking victory.But unionists remained uncompromising in response to the new Sinn Fein Lord Mayor.Mr McGimpsey confirmed that his party would not be putting forward anyone for election as Deputy Lord Mayor in any subsequent meetings.He regretted that Mr Maskey was elected, claiming it was a lesson for those unionists who failed to vote in last year`s local government elections.Mr McGimpsey also said Mr Maskey represented an organisation which had been engaged “in the destruction of this city over the past 30 years“.Democratic Unionist MP and councillor Nigel Dodds also slammed the election of Mr Maskey.The North Belfast MP said: “I think it is the single most divisive thing to have happened in Belfast for many a long year.“The empty chair of the Deputy Lord Mayor beside Maskey is, I think, a potent and tangible symbol of how divisive and isolated a figure he is.“The fact is that courtesy of the three members of the (cross-community) Alliance Party and the SDLP, we now have someone as First Citizen who is part of an organisation which has murdered and continues to murder people in Belfast, and which the Assistant Chief Constable said only yesterday is orchestrating street violence.“


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