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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Belfast mayor in equality pledge
The new lord mayor receives the chain of office
Belfast's first republican lord mayor has pledged to work for equality for all.

Alex Maskey said it was an honour to represent the city.

And speaking on Thursday he promised to work with other parties in "a collective and civic way".

Mr Maskey was elected after getting 26 votes with the backing of the SDLP and the Alliance Party in the vote at the City Hall on Wednesday evening.


Unionist councillors walked out of the City Hall and threatened to withhold co-operation with Sinn Fein by refusing to fill the deputy lord mayor's position.

Ulster Unionist Chris McGimpsey polled 15 votes while Robin Newton of the DUP got the backing of 10 councillors.

Later, Mr Gimpsey said his party would not be putting forward anyone for election as deputy lord mayor in any subsequent meetings.

I have a long-standing record of working with unionists

Alex Maskey, Lord Mayor

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the new first citizen said: "It is up to the politicians to work together."

"I have the commitment to work with the other parties in a collective and civic way to tackle many of these issues," he added.

He said the fact that unionists had returned to the chamber later to do business in "a workman-like way" was something he wanted to build upon.

"I have a long-standing record of working with unionists," he said.

Nigel Dodds MP
Nigel Dodds: Election is divisive

He called on unionists to give him a chance before making up their minds.

"I would ask them to look, listen and learn. Judge me on what they see me doing and saying."

Mr Maskey also referred to sectarian violence in east Belfast saying he would search out "partners for peace" in an attempt to calm tensions in the area.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the election of the Sinn Fein representative was the "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."

Balance of power

Last week, the Alliance Party said it would support a Sinn Fein lord mayor for Belfast.

The party has only three councillors in Belfast, but they hold the balance of power between nationalists and unionists at City Hall.

Alex Maskey
Alex Maskey wants term to be inclusive
Belfast Alliance councillor David Alderdice said it was "now up to Alex Maskey to prove to all the people of Belfast that he will live up to his word to be inclusive".

Supporters of the new lord mayor formed a small motorcade outside the City Hall following the election.

Mr Maskey was twice interned without trial at the start of the Troubles.

He survived a number of loyalist murder attempts, including one in 1987 when he was rushed into intensive-care after being shot in the stomach.

BBC NI's Darryl Grimason:
"There will be no honeymoon period for Belfast's new first citizen"
BBC NI's Martina Purdy:
"While nationalists welcomed the move unionists stormed out in protest"
BBC NI's Mandy McAuley:
"As unionists raged, the new lord mayor held his first press conference"
See also:

05 Jun 02 | N Ireland
31 May 02 | N Ireland
25 Jun 01 | N Ireland
13 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
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