Northern Ireland news

'Judge me with an open mind,' urges Belfast's new Sinn Féin mayor John Finucane

Newly-elected Sinn Féin councillor John Finucane as the new lord mayor of Belfast on the way out to meet the press at Belfast City Hall Pcture by Hugh Russell
By David Young

BELFAST'S new Sinn Féin mayor has urged unionists to judge him with an open mind, highlighting family links to the Orange Order and British military.

John Finucane, son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane, also expressed hope that his year in office would not be dominated by the narrative around his father's controversial 1989 killing.

"I am very proud to be the son of Pat Finucane, but I think for the people who know me, there is a lot more to me than that," he told the Press Association.

Mr Finucane was speaking before it was revealed today that he was informed by police that loyalist paramilitaries were planning to attack him in his family home.

Mr Finucane, also a solicitor, said he would not be found wanting in reaching out to the unionist community, and would meet members of the royal family and attend Orange events if invited.

The 39-year-old, father-of-four said his party's long-standing boycott of the Remembrance Sunday commemoration would be again reviewed ahead of November.

"I am the product of an east Belfast mother who grew up in a middle class unionist area and a west Belfast father who grew up in a Catholic working class area.

"I live and have grown up in north Belfast, I have seen both sides of this city.

"I am a republican, I have family members who are unionist, I have family members who are neither of the two, and I think that diversity can only make our city stronger, because certainly I have felt the benefit of that particular upbringing.

"I feel very comfortable in my own politics, that it doesn't cause me any discomfort to go into areas, where I have been invited, to go into areas and show that a Sinn Féin mayor is not something to be feared.

"Because first and foremost, especially given my own personal background, I know that we need representation that represents everybody, and we can't be partial."

Mr Finucane recently discovered his grandfather had served in the British Navy during WWII, and survived the sinking of an aircraft carrier.

"Remembrance as we know it has become controversial because it has extended beyond the Second World War.

"But for issues like that I will be dealing with them in a very sensitive, in a very appropriate and professional manner, and I don't seek to offend anybody or discredit, certainly, what people fought for in the two world wars."

He said relations on his mother's side were Orangemen and "my office and my hand will always be extended, especially to the Orange Order".

"Certainly I won't be found wanting should a request come in."

The new mayor is the same age as his father was when Pat Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife and three children in their family home by loyalist gunmen later found to be colluding with rogue security force members.

"I am not naive to think that given the fact that campaign (to expose state collusion in the murder) has been ongoing for 30 years, that people would not refer to me as the son of Pat Finucane.

"So whatever way people want to describe me is a matter for them, I am comfortable with that.

"...I won't have my year as mayor dominated by my own past in the way I conduct myself, and it will be for others to write and report on how they feel I am doing in that job."

Mr Finucane, who becomes mayor only weeks after being elected as a councillor, hopes his father would be proud.

"My mother... was reminding me that he used to attend city council in the 80s as... a legal observer, and he was horrified as to how council operated, how it ran, how they treated each other, how they treated people in certain parts of Belfast, and here I am, X amount of years later, as the mayor in a very, very different city council.

"I think the progress and significance of that wouldn't be lost on him."

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