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Former UUP Lord Mayor Bob Stoker:
"I don't believe they will represent all the people"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Sinn Fein aim for top job
Belfast City Hall
The imposing structure of Belfast City Hall
Belfast could soon have its first ever Sinn Fein Lord Mayor.

The top job at Belfast City Hall has been withheld from republicans despite a big increase in their share of the vote in the city over a number of years.

The party emerged as the biggest on the council when the local government elections in Northern Ireland finished on Tuesday.

It is now the only major party not to have taken the Lord Mayor's position.

Belfast City Council
Sinn Fein 14 (+1)
UUP 11 (-2)
DUP 10 (+3)
SDLP 9 (+2)
Alliance 3 (-3)
Others 4 (-1)
Although Sinn Fein's power base has increased the non-sectarian Alliance Party still holds the balance of power between unionists and nationalists.

It has refused to say what is will do when the issue is put to a vote on 25 June.

The Alliance leader on the council David Alderdice said his councillors would discuss the matter next week and added "inevitably we will do the right thing."

Last year Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey missed out on the Lord Mayor's post when an Alliance councillor voted with the unionist bloc.

Rallying point

Belfast City Hall has long been a symbol of unionism.

It has been one of the last political forums to refuse to share power with nationalists.

After the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in the mid-80s unionists in Belfast hung a banner saying "Belfast says No" on the front of the City Hall.

Sinn Fein councillor Alex Maskey
Alex Maskey is tipped as Sinn Fein's man for the top post

Republicans were banned from marching to the building, which lies in the centre of Belfast, although it was a frequent rallying point for unionist protests.

These incidents led to a perception that the civic building was not being fairly shared by both sides of the community.

The first SDLP Lord Mayor of the city Alban Maginness was only elected in 1997.

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