Belfast City Council
Comhairle Cathrach Bhéal Feirste
Bilfawst Citie Cooncil
Frank McCoubrey, DUP
Paul McCusker, SDLP
|Sinn Féin (18) |
Green (NI) (4)
People Before Profit (3)
|2 May 2019|
Belfast City Council (Irish : Comhairle Cathrach Bhéal Feirste; Ulster-Scots: Bilfawst Citie Cooncil) is the local authority with responsibility for part of the city of Belfast, the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. The Council serves an estimated population of 333,871 (2011), the largest of any district council in Northern Ireland, while also being the fourth smallest by area. Belfast City Council is the primary council of the Belfast Metropolitan Area, a grouping of six district councils with commuter towns and overspill from Belfast, containing a total population of 579,276.
The Council is made up of 60 councillors, elected from ten district electoral areas across the city. It holds its meetings in the historic Belfast City Hall. The current Lord Mayor is Frank McCoubrey of the Democratic Unionist Party.
As part of the 2014/2015 reform of local government in Northern Ireland the city council area expanded, and now covers an area that includes 53,000 additional residents in 21,000 households.The number of councillors increased from 51 to 60. Elections to the expanded city council took place on 22 May 2014.
Belfast's modern history can be dated back to the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century which brought significant numbers of Protestant Scottish and English settlers to Ulster. The town gradually developed to become a major industrial centre, in particular in the areas of linen and ship building. In recognition of this growth Belfast was granted city status in 1888 and by 1901, it was the largest city in Ireland. The city's importance was evidenced by the construction of the lavish City Hall, completed in 1906.
The body now known as Belfast City Council has its origins in the defunct Belfast Corporation, and was created in its current form following the local council elections of May 1973. Originally it was intended that there would be 52 wards. However, local enquiries meant that the proposed Tullycarnet ward became instead the Castlereagh Borough Council wards of Tullycarnet and Gilnahirk, leaving Belfast with 51. Although the county borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888,the city continues to be viewed as straddling County Antrim and County Down with the River Lagan generally being seen as the line of demarcation.
From the late 18th century onwards, the city's Roman Catholic population gradually increased, although the city was still dominated by its mostly Ulster Protestant majority. The council was dominated by unionists from its inception until 1997, when they lost overall control for the first time in its history, with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland gaining the balance of power between Irish nationalists and unionists. This position was confirmed in the three subsequent council elections, with mayors from the Irish nationalist Sinn Féin and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the cross-community Alliance Party regularly elected since 1997. The election in 2011 saw Irish nationalist councillors outnumber unionist councillors for the first time, 24–21, with Sinn Féin becoming the largest party, and the Alliance Party maintaining the balance of power with six members. The 2011 census findings confirmed this significant change in demographics. In the Belfast City Council area, the proportion of people who were Catholic or brought up Catholic (48.58%) is larger than those who were Protestant or brought up Protestant (42.30%) for the first time.In terms of national identity 43.16% of the population considered themselves to be British, 34.77% considered themselves to be Irish, and 26.82% considered themselves to be of Northern Irish nationality.
The city of Belfast has the Latin motto "Pro tanto quid retribuamus." This is taken from Psalm 116 Verse 12 in the Latin Vulgate Bible and is literally "For (Pro) so much (tanto) what (quid) we shall repay (retribuamus)" The verse has been translated in bibles differently – for example as "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?".It is also translated as "In return for so much, what shall we give back?" The Queen's University Students' Union Rag Week publication PTQ derives its name from the first three words of the motto.
The coat of arms of the city (pictured, above right) are blazoned as Party per fesse argent and azure, in chief a pile vair and on a canton gules a bell argent, in base a ship with sails set argent on waves of the sea proper. This heraldic language describes a shield that is divided in two horizontally (party per fesse). The top (chief) of the shield is silver (argent), and has a point-down triangle (a pile) with a repeating blue-and-white pattern that represents fur (vair). There is also a red square in the top corner (a canton gules) on which there is a silver bell. It is likely that the bell is an example here of "canting" (or punning) heraldry, representing the first syllable of Belfast. In the lower part of the shield (in base) there is a silver sailing ship shown sailing on waves coloured in the actual colours of the sea (proper). The supporter on the "dexter" side (that is, the viewer's left) is a chained wolf, while on the "sinister" side the supporter is a sea-horse. The crest above the shield is also a sea-horse. These arms date back to 1613, when King James I granted Belfast town status. The seal was used by Belfast merchants throughout the 17th century on their signs and trade-coins.A large stained glass window in the City Hall displays the arms, where an explanation suggests that the seahorse and the ship refer to Belfast's significant maritime history. The wolf may be a tribute to the city's founder, Sir Arthur Chichester, and refer to his own coat of arms. The coat of arms of the city (pictured, above right) are blazoned as Party per fesse argent and azure, in chief a pile vair and on a canton gules a bell argent, in base a ship with sails set argent on waves of the sea proper. This heraldic language describes a shield that is divided in two horizontally (party per fesse). The top (chief) of the shield is silver (argent), and has a point-down triangle (a pile) with a repeating blue-and-white pattern that represents fur (vair). There is also a red square in the top corner (a canton gules) on which there is a silver bell. It is likely that the bell is an example here of "canting" (or punning) heraldry, representing the first syllable of Belfast. In the lower part of the shield (in base) there is a silver sailing ship shown sailing on waves coloured in the actual colours of the sea (proper). The supporter on the "dexter" side (that is, the viewer's left) is a chained wolf, while on the "sinister" side the supporter is a sea-horse. The crest above the shield is also a sea-horse. These arms date back to 1613, when King James I granted Belfast town status. The seal was used by Belfast merchants throughout the 17th century on their signs and trade-coins. A large stained glass window in the City Hall displays the arms, where an explanation suggests that the seahorse and the ship refer to Belfast's significant maritime history. The wolf may be a tribute to the city's founder, Sir Arthur Chichester, and refer to his own coat of arms.
The latest election to Belfast City Council took place on 2 May 2019, with the city's voters electing sixty councillors.
|People Before Profit||1||3|
Parties' election performances have changed substantially since the council's first election in 1973. The Ulster Unionist Party made a strong initial showing and remained the largest unionist party until 2005, when the Democratic Unionist Party became the dominant unionist party, while Sinn Féin has become the largest party overall. Nationalist representation showed a steady increase until recently, while the number of unionist councillors has fallen.
|Democratic Unionist Party||15||13||15||15||10||7||9||8||11||15||7||2|
|Alliance Party of Northern Ireland||10||8||6||4||3||6||5||6||8||7||13||8|
|Ulster Unionist Party||2||7||3||7||11||13||15||14||14||13||15||25|
|Social Democratic and Labour Party||6||7||8||8||9||7||9||8||6||6||8||7|
|Progressive Unionist Party||2||3||2||2||3||3||1||1||1||1||0||0|
|Other||7※€||3※€||1||1||1||2 ¤||2||6 †||4 †||9 ‡||5 †‡||9 †§|
The council area is subdivided into 60 electoral wards, nominally one for each elected councillor. However, as the PR-STV voting system requires multi-seat constituencies, the 60 wards are grouped into ten district electoral areas (DEA) which elect between five and seven councillors each:
The current members are:
|Current council members|
|District electoral area||Name||Party|
|Balmoral||Kate Siobhan Nicholl||Alliance|
|Gareth Spratt †||DUP|
|Sarah Louise Bunting||DUP|
|Geraldine McAteer||Sinn Féin|
|Black Mountain||Matthew Collins||People Before Profit|
|Ciarán Beattie||Sinn Féin|
|Steven Corr||Sinn Féin|
|Arder Carson||Sinn Féin|
|Micheal Donnelly||Sinn Féin|
|Ronan McLaughlin||Sinn Féin|
|Áine McCabe †||Sinn Féin|
|Botanic||Áine Groogan||Green (NI)|
|John Gormley †||Sinn Féin|
|Conor Maskey †||Sinn Féin|
|Dean McCullough †||DUP|
|Mal O’Hara||Green (NI)|
|Carl Joseph Whyte||SDLP|
|Collin||Danny Baker||Sinn Féin|
|Michael Collins||People Before Profit|
|Séanna Walsh||Sinn Féin|
|Stephen Magennis||Sinn Féin|
|Matt Garrett||Sinn Féin|
|Claire Canavan||Sinn Féin|
|Tina Black||Sinn Féin|
|Brian Smyth||Green (NI)|
|Séamas De Faoite||SDLP|
|Dale William Henry Pankhurst||DUP|
|Ryan Murphy||Sinn Féin|
|Nichola Bradley †||Sinn Féin|
|JJ Magee||Sinn Féin|
|Fiona Ferguson||People Before Profit|
|Anthony Flynn||Green (NI)|
|John Colin Hussey||DUP|
|Dr. John Kyle||PUP|
† Co-opted to fill a vacancy since the election.
‡ New party affiliation since the election.
Last updated 28 November 2020.
For further details see 2019 Belfast City Council election.
|Lord Mayor of Belfast|
|Style||The Right Honourable|
|Appointer||Belfast City Council|
|Term length||One year|
|Inaugural holder||Sir Daniel Dixon|
The Lord Mayor of Belfast is the leader and chairman of Belfast City Council and is elected annually by the Council to serve a one-year term. A Deputy Lord Mayor is normally elected at the same Council meeting as the Lord Mayor.
The Lord's Mayor's role is largely ceremonial, but does include the following powers and duties:
The position that is now the Lord Mayor originated in 1613 in the town's Royal Charter as the 'Sovereign of Belfast'. In 1842, this position was restyled the 'Mayor of Belfast'. When Belfast was granted city status in 1892, the position was given Lord Mayor status, making it one of only three cities on the island of Ireland having a Lord Mayor, the other two being Cork and Dublin. In 1929, it became one of only six cities in the United Kingdom to have a Lord Mayor styled "the Right Honourable". Until 1973 the position was held for three years, when it was reduced to its current term of one year. From its formation in 1921 until its abolition in 1972, the Lord Mayor was automatically entitled to a seat in the Senate of Northern Ireland.
For most of the city's modern history, the position has been held by unionists, with members of the Ulster Unionist Party holding the post for a total of 61 of the 67 years between 1921 and 1997. The first non-unionist Lord Mayor since the partition of Ireland in 1921 was David Cook from the Alliance Party, who was elected in 1978. The first Irish nationalist Lord Mayor was not appointed until the election of Alban Maginness from the SDLP in 1997, while a Sinn Féin Lord Mayor was first elected in 2002. The end of the unionist majority on the Council in 1997 has resulted in a greater rotation of the position amongst the parties, which, like other elected positions within the Council such as Committee chairs, is now filled using the D'Hondt system. This system awards positions to parties based on their number of councillors.
The Local Government (Modification of Borough Charters) Order (Northern Ireland) 1973 entitles the Council to appoint up to twelve of its members to the honorary position of alderman. The role of alderman is appointed at the first annual meeting following the election of the Council and does not carry any extra responsibilities other than the right to be referred to as an alderman rather than councillor. Following the local elections in 1997and 2005 the Council voted not to appoint any of its members to the positions, however all twelve places were filled after the May 2011 election.
The Aldermen in their position at 21.01.2020 were:
|Name||District Electoral Area (DEA)||Party|
|Brian Kingston||Court||Democratic Unionist Party|
|Frank McCoubrey||Court||Democratic Unionist Party|
|Sonia Copeland||Titanic||Ulster Unionist Party|
|Tommy Sandford||Lisnasharragh||Democratic Unionist Party|
|Guy Spence||Castle||Democratic Unionist Party|
|Jim Rodgers OBE||Orminston||Ulster Unionist Party|
|Tom Haire||Orminston||Democratic Unionist Party|
The High Sheriff of Belfast is a largely ceremonial position currently held by Alderman Tom Haire who took office on 16 January 2017. The High Sheriff is theoretically the Queen's judicial representative in the city, while the Lord Lieutenant is the Sovereign's personal representative, however the office is now largely symbolic with few formal duties other than deputising for the Lord Mayor at official events. The position was created in 1900 under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898, with Sir James Henderson the first holder. Appointments are made on annual basis by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who asks the outgoing High Sheriff and the Council to suggest the names of three people who are deemed suitable to hold the position. In recent years the Council has suggested only one candidate, who is normally a member of the Council.The High Sheriff's term of office runs from January to December, which is distinct from the term of office for the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor who take up office in May or June each year.
The Lord Lieutenant of Belfast is the official representative of the Queen for the 'County Borough of Belfast'. The Lord Lieutenant is Mrs Finnouala Jay-O'Boyle CBE who was appointed in July 2014. The position was first created in 1900 and was held by the Marquess of Londonderry. The role is largely honorary with the few formal duties relating to liaising with the Queen's Private Office in the lead up to visits to the City regarding issues of local concern and the presentation of awards on behalf of the Queen.
The district councils of Northern Ireland were reformed in 2015. The councillors elected on 5 May 2011 served on Belfast City Council until 31 March 2015. At the local elections on 22 May 2014 a new Belfast City Council was elected and acted as a shadow authority until coming into its powers on 1 April 2015. The local government district of Belfast was expanded on 1 April 2015 to the south to include areas formerly part of the Castlereagh, Lisburn and North Down districts.The new electoral areas will be Balmoral, Black Mountain, Botanic, Castle, Collin, Court, Lisnasharragh, Oldpark, Ormiston and Titanic.
Belfast has four coterminous constituencies for the UK Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, which extend somewhat beyond the city boundaries into parts of Castlereagh, Lisburn and Newtownabbey districts. At the 2019 UK general election, Belfast returned four MPs for the following constituencies: Belfast East (Gavin Robinson, DUP), Belfast South (Claire Hanna, SDLP), Belfast North (John Finucane, Sinn Féin) and Belfast West (Paul Maskey, Sinn Féin).
In the 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election, Belfast returned a total of 20 MLAs (five per constituency) for the constituencies of Belfast East, Belfast South, Belfast North and Belfast West. Prior to the 2017 election, each constituency elected six MLAs or a total of 24 MLAs for Belfast. The results are summarised below:
|Party||NIA 2017||+/-||UK 2019||+/-|
|Democratic Unionist Party||5||-3||1||-2|
|Social Democratic and Labour Party||2||-1||1||+1|
|Alliance Party of Northern Ireland||3||=||0||=|
|Ulster Unionist Party||1||=||0||=|
The above declines in party strength in the Northern Ireland Assembly are mostly attributable to the reduction in the number of MLAs from six to five in each constituency.
The council has six committees, the members of which are appointed at the annual meeting of the council.
Each of the committees consists of 20 councillors with the quorum (the minimum number of councillors that are required to be present to transact business legally) of each committee being five members. Committees sit at least monthly with the exception of July. All committees are constituted to reflect, as far as practicable, the different political groups into which the members of the council are divided. The posts of chairman and deputy chairman of committees are allocated on the basis of the d'Hondt system of proportionality:
Minutes of meetings of Council committees and subcommittees are available at Belfast City Council (searchable) and at Belfast NI Gov Wiki (unofficial site).
The council has seven departments.
|Chief Executive's||Responsible for providing support to the Lord Mayor and councillors in their roles as public representatives.|
|Corporate Services||Responsible for human resources, financial services and information systems. Also oversees the registration of births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships.|
|Development||Responsibilities include: |
– Community and play development
– Culture and heritage
– Economic development
– Physical regeneration
– Venue Management
| St George's Market |
|Health and Environmental Services||Works to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of all who live in the city or who come into the city each day to work or visit. Also has important waste management responsibilities, including promoting waste reduction and recycling and making arrangements for the collection, treatment and disposal of waste.|
|Improvement||Responsible for developing and delivering a single improvement and efficiency agenda for the organisation.|
|Legal Services||Provides comprehensive legal advice to the Council.|
|Parks and Leisure||Maintain the city's green spaces and organising park events and activities. They also work to promote some of Belfast's biggest tourist attractions and manage many of the council's major assets.|| Belfast Zoo |
Belfast Botanic Gardens
Belfast City Cemetery
Parks and gardens in Belfast
The area covered by the current Belfast City Council has a population of 333,871 residents according to the 2011 Northern Ireland census. The area covered by the old Belfast City Council before the 2015 local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland had a population of 280,962 residents according to the same census.
In the 2011 census the distributions of population, religion, national identity and proportion of immigrants within the Belfast City Council area were as follows.
Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council was a local council in Northern Ireland. It merged with Cookstown District Council and Magherafelt District Council in May 2015 under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Mid-Ulster District Council.
Castlereagh was a local government district with the status of borough in Northern Ireland. It merged with Lisburn City Council in May 2015 under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, with a small amount being transferred to Belfast City Council.
The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) is a liberal and centrist political party in Northern Ireland. It was long Northern Ireland's fifth-largest party, currently holding eight seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, but made breakthroughs in recent elections to place third in first preference votes in both the 2019 European Parliament election and the 2019 UK general election. The party won one of the three Northern Ireland seats in the European Parliament, and one seat, North Down, in the House of Commons.
Newry and Mourne District Council was a local council in Northern Ireland. It merged with Down District Council in May 2015 under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Antrim was a local government district in Northern Ireland. It was one of twenty-six districts created in 1973, and was granted borough status on 9 May 1977. The borough covered an area of some 220 square miles (570 km2) and had a population of 53,428 according to the 2011 census. It was situated about 19 miles (31 km) north-west of Belfast. It bordered the north and east shores of Lough Neagh, the largest fresh water lake in the United Kingdom, and included the towns of Antrim, Toomebridge, Crumlin, Randalstown, Parkgate and Templepatrick. The council headquarters were located on the outskirts of Antrim town. Although the borough was not within the Belfast Metropolitan Area, it housed the city's international airport and many commuter villages.
Newtownabbey Borough Council was a Local Authority in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, on the north shore of Belfast Lough just immediately north of Belfast. The Council merged with Antrim Borough Council in April 2015 under local government reform in Northern Ireland to form Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Belfast North is a parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current MP is John Finucane of Sinn Féin.
Derry City Council was the local government authority for the city of Derry in Northern Ireland. It merged with Strabane District Council in April 2015 under local government reorganisation to become Derry and Strabane District Council.
Armagh City and District Council was a district council in County Armagh in Northern Ireland. It merged with Banbridge District Council and Craigavon Borough Council in May 2015 under local government reorganisation in Northern Ireland to become Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council.
Lisburn City Council was the local authority for an area partly in County Antrim and partly in County Down in Northern Ireland. As of May 2015 it was merged with Castlereagh Borough Council as part of the reform of local government in Northern Ireland to become Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
Alex Maskey is an Irish politician who has been Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly since 2020 and was the first member of Sinn Féin to serve as Lord Mayor of Belfast from 2002 to 2003. He was Sinn Féin's longest sitting councillor and is currently an MLA for Belfast West as well as being a former councillor for the Laganbank electoral area of Belfast.
Frank McCoubrey is a Unionist politician and loyalist in Northern Ireland, as well as a community activist and researcher. He is a leading member of the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) and a member of Belfast City Council, representing the Court area as a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor. McCoubrey is a native of Highfield, Belfast.
Paul Butler is a republican politician in Northern Ireland and a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. He served as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Lagan Valley from 2007–11.
Paul John Maskey is an Irish republican politician in Northern Ireland who is a member of Sinn Féin. He served as a Sinn Féin member (MLA) of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast West from 2007 to 2012. He is currently the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Westminster constituency of Belfast West, but in line with Sinn Féin's policy of abstentionism he has not taken his seat there.
Eric Smyth is a Northern Irish Unionist politician and Presbyterian minister.
Elections for local government were held in Northern Ireland on 15 May 1985, contesting 565 seats in all.
Elections were held in January and June 1920 for the various county and district councils of Ireland. The elections were organised by the Dublin Castle administration under the law of the then United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (UK), and held while the Irish War of Independence was pitting UK forces against those of the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1919 by the First Dáil. Elections were held in two stages: borough and urban district councils in January; and county and rural district councils in June. Sinn Féin, which had established the First Dáil, won control of many of the councils, which subsequently broke contact with Dublin Castle's Local Government Board for Ireland and instead recognised the republican Department of Local Government. The election results provide historians with a barometer of public opinion in what would be the last elections held on an all-island basis: the Government of Ireland Act 1920 passed at the end of the year effected the partition of Ireland from 1921. The next local elections were held in 1924 in Northern Ireland and in 1925 in the Irish Free State.
Niall Ó Donnghaile is an Irish Sinn Féin politician who has served as Leader of Sinn Féin in the Seanad since June 2020 and a Senator for the Administrative Panel since April 2016. He previously served as Lord Mayor of Belfast from 2011 to 2012 and a Councillor on Belfast City Council from 2011 to 2016.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is an Irish Sinn Féin politician, author, publisher and businessman, who served as the 58th Lord Mayor of Belfast (2013–14). Ó Muilleoir has two siblings, one of which is writer, blogger and Huffington Post columnist Adrian Millar, whilst the other is journalist and editor Gerry Millar/Gearóid Ó Muilleoir of The Belfast Telegraph.
Local elections were held in Northern Ireland on Thursday 2 May 2019. The last elections were held in 2014. 819 candidates contested 462 seats across Northern Ireland's 11 local government districts. 1,305,384 people aged 18 and over were eligible to vote, and 52.7% of the electorate turned out.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belfast City Council .|