No oil painting: New Alliance Lord Mayor Michael Long of Belfast makes pledge to ratepayers over official portrait

The new Alliance lord mayor of Belfast may be entitled to an official four-figure portrait of himself, despite being in the job for only three weeks.

By Adam Kula
Friday, 13th May 2022, 3:16 pm
Michael Long, the new Lord Mayor of Belfast
Michael Long, the new Lord Mayor of Belfast

However, Michael Long has told the News Letter point blank that, even if offered, he will decline the portrait.

Mr Long (husband of party leader Naomi Long) took over as Lord Mayor on Monday, after erstwhile Alliance lord mayor Katie Nicholl was elected to the Assembly.

Her time as First Citizen of Belfast had been due to end on June 1, and now those remaining weeks are being served out by her colleague councillor Long.

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Asked by the News Letter about whether councillor Long is indeed eligible for a portrait despite his short stint, the council replied that “a decision on the Lord Mayor’s portrait hasn’t been confirmed as of yet”.

One council source indicated that the cost of such portraits could be up to £8,000.

But mayor Long himself has told the News Letter: “The most I’d have is maybe just a selfie, and that’s about it. Given the short time frame, from my point of view I wouldn’t consider that appropriate.

“I think it’d cost a lot of money and I don’t think after three weeks it’d be something I’d want to put the ratepayers through.

“I might take my own selfie or something, or see if I can get a wee feature in Kate’s portrait – maybe poking out behind her or something.

“But certainly no, it wouldn’t be something I’d be wanting.”

As to what he aims to achieve in the short space of time he is mayor, he said: “Because I wasn’t born in Northern Ireland [he was born in Canada], I feel it’s important that Belfast is welcoming to whoever would make Belfast their home.

“So that’s my kind of theme I’ll be working on. I’m hoping to meet some refugee groups and other people like that.”

The next Lord Mayor of the city is due to be nominated by Sinn Fein – which is the biggest party on the council, with 16 seats to the DUP’s 15.

Since 2012, the Lord Mayors of Belfast have been:

Gavin Robinson (DUP), Mairtin O Muilleoir (SF), Nichola Mallon (SDLP), Arder Carson (SF), Brian Kingston (DUP), Nuala McAllister (All.), Deirdre Hargey (SF), John Finucane (SF), Daniel Baker (SF), Frank McCoubrey (DUP) and Katie Nicholl.

Not all have served without controversy.

Whilst most mayors try to stick to uncontroversial community causes while in the role, Ms McAllister campaigned for liberalising abortion while in post, and was criticised by UUP and DUP figures for this.

And in 2019 Mr Finucane was spoken to by police after being caught urinating in a city centre street.

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