Sinn Fein prepares for mayoral double win

11 May 00
With the Northern Ireland peace process teetering back from the precipice, Sinn Fein looks set to achieve an unprecedented double by winning the post of mayor in the province's two cities, Belfast and Londonderry.

12 May 2000

Sinn Fein councillor and former IRA detainee Cathal Crumley now appears certain to become mayor of Derry City Council, with the backing of the SDLP. He would be the first republican mayor of the city.

The council intends to use the d'Hondt proportional voting procedure – used for deciding membership of the Northern Ireland Executive – to elect Crumley. This would mean that the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) would be accorded the deputy's job. However, a DUP spokesman said they oppose the use of the procedure and would not co-operate.

Belfast, which has already had a mayor from the anti-sectarian Alliance Party, currently has a Sinn Fein deputy mayor. The election of leading Sinn Fein councillor Alex Maskey to the Belfast mayor's chair depends on support from the Alliance Party, which holds the balance of power and has previously said it would not support a Sinn Fein candidate.

Mayors in Northern Ireland, like their counterparts in the rest of the UK, have little political power, although they chair full council meetings, host civic events and lead trade delegations abroad. But in the province they have huge symbolic significance, and Sinn Fein holding both posts would be certain to anger more diehard Unionists.


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