The general opinion on Slugger – never mind media commentators and conversations in pubs and livings rooms – has been that the DUP have been edging towards the centre ground. Throughout the election campaign, Peter Robinson avoided criticising the deputy First Minister and generally avoided needling Sinn Fein – and Martin McGuinness reciprocated with his frequent references to “Peter and I”.
While pockets remain in the DUP that still articulate their distrust and discomfort at working so closely with Sinn Fein, the more moderate mood is widely prevailing. But respect and politeness was absent in Belfast City Hall last night as the Lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor were announced.
This morning’s News Letter reports [not online] that “New SF mayor is snubbed by deputy”, going on to say:
The new Belfast deputy lord mayor last night refused to acknowledge the Sinn Fein lord mayor she will be working closely with for the next year … She refused to accept congratulations from Mr O’Donnghaile, shake hands, talk to or even look at him … Ms Patterson told the News Letter after the meeting that she has not yet made a decision on whether or not she will talk to the lord mayor.
I wanted to wish her congratulations, it is unfortunate she refused to accept them.
Speaking today on Good Morning Ulster Niall Ó Donnghaile outlined his intentions:
I intend to work with all of the council members and that includes the deputy mayor and her fellow members of the DUP … I do want to be a mayor for all … not just unionists, loyalists, but republicans and nationalists and many different people who make up our city. I am confident that we can move the city forward in this new term.
Issuing a statement, Alderman Robin Newton (who leads the DUP group in the City Hall) stood of up his party colleague:
Ruth Patterson has been a Councillor for more than ten years. She knows how Council meetings should be conducted and what the protocol is for such occasions. She will be a fine ambassador for our city and brings a wealth of experience and dynamism to the role which others can only aspire to.
If the DUP dig in their heels in Belfast while Sinn Fein continue to drift towards moderation and inclusivity, the “dinosaur” label may well be transferred from Tom Elliott to the Belfast DUP … or at least, Ruth Patterson.
Update – UTV clip of the “snub”. h/t to Jude Collins and his post that featured it.