The Green Party in Northern Ireland has achieved a historic milestone by securing its first-ever mayoral position, with Áine Groogan being appointed as the deputy lord mayor of Belfast. This development comes after the party lost three seats in the recent Northern Ireland council elections, including the seat held by party leader Mal O’Hara in Belfast. Today, seven of Northern Ireland’s 11 councils are appointing their top officials.
Groogan expressed that her election symbolises “the new Belfast” and emphasised the uncertainty faced by many in the community and voluntary sectors. With Northern Ireland’s devolved governmental departments needing to find £800m of savings to meet the new draft budget, Groogan said this would have a detrimental impact on communities. She pledged to use her position as deputy lord mayor to highlight the vital work these organisations provide across Belfast.
Groogan also stated that the party’s agenda for the term is focused on building a “greener, cleaner, fairer Belfast” and raising awareness of the climate and biodiversity crisis faced by all.
Meanwhile, 28-year-old Ryan Murphy of Sinn Féin has been appointed as the lord mayor of Belfast. He is among the youngest councillors to assume the role of the city’s first citizen, describing the appointment as a “huge honour.”
In a notable development, it has been confirmed that Londonderry will not have a unionist mayor during the full term of its council for the first time in 50 years. At Derry City and Strabane District Council, the largest party, Sinn Féin, will hold the mayor’s role for three years, with the SDLP, the second-largest party, taking the position for the remaining year.
The council, formed through the merger of Derry City Council and Strabane District Council in 2015, employs the D’Hondt system to determine which parties appoint the mayor and deputy mayor. The system awards roles based on party size, and until now, unionist parties had won enough seats to ensure at least one year as mayor during the council term. With only eight unionist councillors, neither the DUP nor UUP can automatically claim the post. Instead, they will each serve one year as deputy mayor.
For the coming year, Sinn Féin’s Patricia Logue has been appointed mayor, while the SDLP’s Jason Barr will serve as deputy mayor. In other appointments, Mid and East Antrim Council elected the Alliance Party’s Gerardine Mulvenna as mayor, with Stewart McDonald of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) as deputy.
In last month’s election, Sinn Féin became the largest party in local government in Northern Ireland for the first time, winning 144 seats—an increase of 39—well ahead of the DUP with 122 seats and Alliance with 67 seats.
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