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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK
Belfast to wait for deputy lord mayor
Belfast City Hall
Councillors deferred a decision at Belfast City Hall
A second attempt to fill the post of deputy lord mayor of Belfast has failed.

City councillors deferred a decision on the issue on Monday following a delay after the election of Belfast's first republican lord mayor, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey, who was elected last month.

The decision means Mr Maskey must wait for another two months at least for a deputy to be elected.

Unionists are refusing to fill the position, saying that they do not want to give any credibility to the new lord mayor.

Alex Maskey
Alex Maskey: Belfast's first republican lord mayor

Nelson McCausland of the Democratic Unionist Party said the post should be left vacant for the whole year.

"I think it is important that we leave the office of deputy lord mayor vacant throughout this year in order to demonstrate that the election of a Sinn Fein mayor in Belfast is an affront to the unionist people of our city," he said.

When he was elected, Mr Maskey pledged to work for equality for all.

He said it was an honour to represent the city.

He was elected on 6 June after getting 26 votes with the backing of the SDLP and the Alliance Party in the vote at the City Hall.

Sinn Fein said they hoped that unionists would have a change-of-heart in September, once the marching season was over.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Maskey marked the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme with the laying of a laurel wreath ahead of the main ceremony.

Civic commemoration

It is believed to be the first time a republican political representative in Northern Ireland has laid a wreath in memory of those killed in a First World War battle.

He said he had support for the decision both within and outside his own party.

After laying the wreath Mr Maskey said: "This is a major step for republicans and nationalists on this island.

"I hope that this initiative will be seen at face value and as a positive gesture."

He said he was laying the wreath in memory of, and in tribute to, all men who died at the Somme and during all of the First World War.

Mr Maskey added that he would be asking the council to debate a new form of civic commemoration for all those who died.

Irish republicans in Northern Ireland have always refused to attend Cenotaph wreath laying ceremonies, saying they were too closely associated with Britain's military establishment.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
DUP councillor Nelson McCausland:
"I think the office of deputy lord mayor should be left vacant throughout the year"
See also:

27 Jun 02 | N Ireland
06 Jun 02 | N Ireland
05 Jun 02 | N Ireland
06 Jun 02 | N Ireland
31 May 02 | N Ireland
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