Historic Milestones: Belfast’s First Gay Lord Mayor, Derry’s First Black Lord Mayor…

At times, you do wonder if this place will ever change, but when you zoom out from the day to day, there have been some dramatic changes.

It is not that long ago since we had the ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’ campaign trying to valiantly protect the good citizens of Ulster from ‘the gays’. But times change. We now have our first openly gay Minister in Andrew Muir, and now his Alliance party colleague councillor Micky Murray to be the next Belfast lord mayor. From the BBC:

Mr Murray says he is committed to creating a more “inclusive” city and describes himself as “the very first openly gay lord mayor that we’ve ever had”.

The position in Belfast is largely ceremonial and dates back to 1892.

Mr Murray is set to replace Sinn Féin’s Ryan Murphy in the post in June, with the top positions at Belfast City Hall rotating annually.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is due to fill the role of deputy lord mayor in June.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster on Tuesday, Mr Murray said his sexuality was relevant in his new political role.

“For my community it does matter,” he said.

“For years there weren’t minorities represented in local politics and local politics should represent the communities that we’re elected to represent

“I want to work with as many LGBT organisations as possible to figure out the voice that they have and what they expect from Belfast City Council.”

Mr Murray, 32, works in a constituency office for Alliance and has served on Belfast City Council since 2022.

There was a complaint about one of his social media posts in 2017 when he was pictured wearing the lord mayor’s chain, even though he was not a councillor at the time.

He wrote beside the picture: “My first act as First Gay of Belfast is banning the DUP from the city and making rainbows compulsory.”

At the time the DUP criticised the Facebook post and called it a “misjudgement”.

Asked about the post at City Hall as he prepares to don the mayoral chain for real in June, Mr Murray played down the incident.

“That was quite clearly a joke. It was on my personal Facebook page,” he said,

“I have a very good track record of working with councillors from across all parties whether it be on constituency issues or council-wide issues, and I think everyone understood that it was a joke.”

It was put to him that the DUP might not regard it as a joke, and may be concerned about unfair treatment from the new lord mayor.

“I don’t think they’ve got anything to worry about,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Derry, Lilian Seenoi-Barr is set to become Derry’s first black mayor.

Originally from Kenya, Lilian has made Derry her home these past few years. A few years ago, we had Lilian on one of our Slugger panels at the John Hewitt Summer School, and I found her an engaging speaker with a very interesting backstory.

Unfortunately, every racist wingnut with a Twitter account seems to be seeing Seenoi-Barr’s appointment as some New World Order plan to subjugate the white man. They might be vastly overestimating the power that being Mayor of Derry bestows.

My advice to both Mickey and Lilian is to remember that social media is not the real world. Twitter, especially, has become a complete train wreck since its takeover. Hand your social media accounts to a party worker and get on with enjoying your year in office.

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