An Alliance councillor has been labelled “one of the worst” lord mayors Belfast has ever had, due to her outspoken political beliefs while in office.
Nuala McAllister, whose term as lord mayor ended earlier this month, has been slammed by unionists on Belfast City Council for “failing to remain impartial” on controversial issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Two-time former lord mayor, UUP Alderman Jim Rodgers, said Ms McAllister “should have put her office ahead of her politics”.
He told the News Letter: “The lord mayor is a civic leader and they are there to represent the whole community of Belfast.
“Sadly Nuala McAllister was one of the most political lord mayors that I’ve ever come across, which was disappointing.”
As well as her campaigning for reforms to legislation on abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland during her time in office, the veteran UUP man said Ms McAllister had courted controversy in other areas.
Mr Rodgers added: “She categorically refused to read from the Bible at the beginning of council meetings – something that has happened as long as I can remember – because she is an atheist.
“There were things during my two terms as mayor that I wasn’t happy with, but for the good of Belfast I did them.
“The UUP predicted from the day and hour that Ms McAllister was elected that it wouldn’t be a good year, and it most certainly wasn’t.
“The feedback I got from across the community was that she was one of the worst lord mayors we have ever had, and I would concur with that.”
DUP councillor Lee Reynolds also rounded on Ms McAllister, stating she had “no claim to being a special case”.
“Everyone elected to the position of lord mayor has their own political beliefs and causes they believe passionately in,” he said.
“However, the expectation and practice was to set those aside as much as possible to fulfil their civic duty to every citizen of the city.
“In the past Alliance roundly condemned a unionist lord mayor for acting politically when he refused to wear the chain of office to meet the lord mayor of Dublin in Belfast City Hall. He justified his actions on his political beliefs and they did not accept that as justification. This makes their new stance hypocritical.”
The Alliance Party has said it is “extremely proud” of Ms McAllister’s year as lord mayor, hailing her as “a breath of fresh air in the role and an excellent role model for young women and working mums everywhere”.
Responding to the criticism levelled at her, an Alliance Party spokesperson said: “During the wider political impasse, she not only fulfilled her role with dedication and energy, but was a true ambassador for Northern Ireland internationally.
“Her work on inward investment and building a global profile for the city and region was recognised positively at home and abroad.
“As lord mayor, councillor McAllister represented everyone, working hard to increase Belfast’s global image as a welcoming and diverse city to live in and visit.
“This persistent, petty and small-minded criticism aimed particularly at young female councillors says more about those who engage in it than anything else.”
The party said the “relentless, unsubstantiated and unwarranted criticism” targeted at councillor McAllister “needs to stop”.