Sixteen past Lord Mayors of Belfast have gathered together for an event to mark the end of Northern Ireland’s largest local authority.
As Belfast City Council prepares to be dissolved at the end of the month and reborn as an expanded body, a modest celebration of the 42-year-old council’s achievements was held in Belfast City Hall.
Around 100 people — many of them current or former councillors — gathered to recall some of the achievements of the body responsible for running Northern Ireland’s capital city.
Alban Maginness, the first nationalist or Catholic mayor of the city, said that his election had been a “political revolution”. Alex Maskey, who became the first Sinn Fein Lord Mayor in 2002, said that, having come from a working class background, it was “very humbling” to be elevated to the top civic post.
The first DUP mayor, Sammy Wilson, recalled attending an African community centre in south Belfast where “they thought I was a king”.
The council’s chief executive, Suzanne Wylie, told councillors present for the event: “I don’t think the public really understand the sacrifices you have to make.”
The current Lord Mayor, SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon, welcomed “old friends and old adversaries” to the good-natured event. She said that Belfast was now a city “full of hope”, with the chance to become a world leader. And she told veteran councillors that to have served as a political representative during the Troubles “required great courage”.
Ms Mallon also praised the courage of councillors who began planning the Waterfront Hall at the end of the 1980s — a vast project which would not be completed for another decade, but which she said has been a catalyst for the regeneration of Belfast city centre.