Northern Ireland news

Former Sinn Féin lord mayor Deirdre Hargey to replace Máirtín Ó Muilleoir in Assembly seat

Sinn Féin's Deirdre Hargey and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir with party members after the recent South Belfast convention

FORMER Belfast lord mayor Deirdre Hargey has been selected to replace Máirtín Ó Muilleoir at the Assembly.

Sinn Féin said Ms Hargey, who will be expected to vacate her council seat, will be co-opted as a new MLA for the party in South Belfast.

Mr Ó Muilleoir was the last Stormont finance minister before its collapse and and set up the RHI inquiry. He was also a former mayor before taking up his Assembly seat in 2014.

The businessman had been the Sinn Féin South Belfast candidate in the previous two general elections and there has been mounting speculation in recent months about his departure from politics.

Speaking after a selection convention, Ms Hargey said it was a "crucial time" in politics and she wanted her constituents voices to be "heard loud and clear".

"Whether it’s standing against Brexit and Tory cuts or striving to make Belfast greener in the battle against climate change; I will be your voice," she said.

"There is no doubt that momentum for Irish Unity has grown rapidly in recent years and I will play my part in building a better future for all."

Ms Hargey first joined Belfast City Council in 2010 before taking up office as mayor in June 2018.

Sinn Féin stepped aside in the constituency in the Westminster election earlier this month to give the SDLP's Claire Hanna a greater chance of unseating the DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly.

Speaking after his resignation, Mr Ó Muilleoir said it had been the "greatest privilege" of his life to represent the people of south and west Belfast for Sinn Fin in both City Hall and Stormont.

"But it is now time for me to hand over to a representative of a newer generation of republican activists," he said.

Mr Ó Muilleoir is managing director of Belfast Media Group, which produces the Andersonstown News, North Belfast News, South Belfast News and New York based Irish Echo newspapers.

He is seeking a buyer for his west Belfast media business.

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