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Former SDLP mayor and republican internee Pat McCarthy accepts MBE

Former SDLP Belfast Lord Mayor Pat McCarthy has accepted an MBE in the New Years Honours list. Picture by Colm Lenaghan
John Monaghan

A FORMER republican internee has become the latest SDLP figure to accept an honour from the Queen.

Pat McCarthy, who served as Belfast's fourth nationalist mayor in 2006/07, has been awarded an MBE for services to local government and community cohesion in the city.

Born in the Markets area, Mr McCarthy was interned without trial in 1971 for alleged membership of the Official IRA.

Following his release in 1972, he helped set up the Lower Ormeau Community Residents’ Association and was elected a councillor in 2001.

He failed to gain a place on the expanded city council last year.

On becoming lord mayor in 2006, Mr McCarthy said: "My father was a merchant seaman who fought the Nazis.

"I still wear his medals proudly and I attend the Belfast cenotaph every year to remember those who died in the wars."

He added: "I have no problem bringing my message of peace to unionist areas. The people of this city have had a shared past and we can have a shared future."

In 1983 former SDLP leader Gerry Fitt received criticism for accepting a peerage, while five years later Mary McSorley, a former chair of Magherafelt District Council, resigned from the party after accepting an OBE.

Lurgan councillor Hugh Casey also left the SDLP after accepting an MBE in 1994, claiming he had been ostracised by some members.

Rosaleen Hughes, a former Castlereagh councillor, also accepted an OBE, while in 1999 founding SDLP member Paddy Devlin was awarded a CBE.

In 2006 former SDLP vice-chairman Tom Kelly also dismissed criticism by Sinn Féin after accepting an OBE for public services.

An SDLP spokesman said on Wednesday: "Pat has had a long and distinguished career of representing all of his constituents working with many community groups in all sections of our society.

"Some of those he has helped have chosen to recognise his invaluable work by nominating him to be included in the new year's honour list. It is the personal choice of Pat alone if he wishes to accept it."

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