On Friday 11 March 2011, the Politics Society of Sullivan Upper School welcomed the Lord Mayor of Belfast and member of the SDLP, Pat Convery.
After a brief talk, the floor was opened to questions. However we found out that the Lord Mayor was not allowed to answer any political question while wearing the chain of office (which was solid gold) and so we first asked about issues to do with the role of the Lord Mayor. In answers, he revealed that the Lord Mayor’s post was not chosen by D’hondt but rather by the Council. Furthermore he told us that this system was due to change but that there was a dilemma in deciding what to it change to. He also told us what happened during the water crisis in December. We all got a scare when he disclosed that there was a room in Belfast, where people watched what was happening in the city, especially the young people, and had access to Facebook and Twitter accounts, Nonetheless he said this was very useful during the crisis as they could see which areas needed water most. He asserted that his staff turned out, even though it wasn’t their responsibility, to deliver water to the elderly.
At this point, Mr Convery took the chain off and starting talking about the SDLP. During which, he informed us that collective responsibility was being undermined in government and that the current budget ‘isn’t fit for purpose’. He was very honest about the reasons for the decline in support in recent years, stating it was because people who join the party don’t want to be activists and that the SDLP didn’t seem ‘to be attractive to young people’. Nonetheless he did have one critic of Sinn Fein, which was that they didn’t see a way forward using ‘value-for-money’ which would be a necessity in the coming years.
And with that, the meeting was adjourned and the Lord Mayor very kindly presented us with a small plaque acknowledging his visit. I would like to thank all who were there and extend my gratitude to the committee members and Mr Armstrong, who played a key role in making the visit a success.
Clare Coulter Deputy Secretary of the Politics Society