Máirtín Ó Muilleoir was returned for Sinn Féin in the Stormont Assembly election of May 2016 and again in March 2017 (securing the highest-ever Sinn Féin vote in the constituency) as a representative for South Belfast. Following the 2016 poll, he was appointed to the post of Finance Minister in the North of Ireland Executive and remained in post until the Executive collapsed in January 2017.
From 1987-1997, Máirtín was among a new generation of Sinn Féin councillors (led by former Mayor Alex Maskey) who transformed Belfast City Council through a series of landmark legal challenges which guaranteed equal rights for all representatives. His Belfast’s Dome of Delight memoir chronicles that time as does his Irish language novella Ceap Cuddles. He left politics in 1997 to take over the Andersonstown News, growing it into the Belfast Media Group with colleagues and launching the republican-leaning daily newspaper Daily Ireland in 2005. He returned to City Hall in 2011 and was elected Lord Mayor/ArdMhéara in 2013.
Award-winning photographer Dónal McCann followed the mayoral year and produced an exhibition accompanied by a book published by the Golden Thread Gallery, We, Too, Sing Belfast. Máirtín’s own memoir of that tumultuous year in office. Paidir do Bhéal Feirste, was published in Irish by Coiscéim and an English language translation is due out in 2017.
A tireless advocate for the new and resurgent Belfast, he founded a series of initiatives designed to showcase the very best of the city including the Aisling Awards and the Belfast International Homecoming which encourages the global Irish diaspora to invest Belfast’s renaissance. In October 2015, he was the driving force behind the Belfast Ciclovía, when Belfast roads were closed on a Sunday and handed over to cyclists for the first time ever. Later that month, he travelled to Berlin where he became the first recipient from the North of Ireland of the Tolerntia Laureate Award for his contribution in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
He remains a director of the Belfast Media Group and has been a consistent backer of Irish American media including the Irish Echo and Irish Central. Through his connections in America, he pioneered the Belfast-Boston sister city agreement and among influential visitors he has hosted to Belfast are Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli who recently made the biggest-ever investment in an equity fund in the North.
An Irish speaker, he believes strongly in the promotion of culture as the bedrock of successful and diverse communities.
Bhí sé ina fhoilsitheoir ar an nuachtán laethúil Gaeilge Lá agus ba stiúrthóir é ar Bóthar Ard, comhlacht a a rinne corradh le 10 glcár do TG4. He was a publisher of the daily newspaper Lá and a founder of the film company Bóthar Ard which made more than 10 documentaries for TG4.
A keen supporter of the arts, he curated the 2012 Belfast Festival ‘Tears in Rain’ exhibition of conflict-related art which was accompanied by an essay of the same name published by the Golden Thread Gallery.
He served as Lord Mayor of Belfast from June 2013-June 2014. Among his awards flowing from that year in office were the Community Relations Council Award for Civic Leadership, the PRIDE Festival Award for Best Political Contribution to the LGBT Community, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians of America JFK Medal, their highest honour.
In October 2013, he was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International for “the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples”.
As Finance Minister, he led a team of 3,100 in the Department of Finance and oversaw a budget of over £11bn. He led a revamp of the Central Procurement Directorate which he chaired to put an emphasis on social value and local SMEs and in October 2016 unveiled a £30m First Step Stimulus. As Finance Minister, he removed rates from amateur sporting club premises, brought forward proposals for empowerment zones in east and west Belfast, revived the Government Art Collection, and introduce the one per cent for art principle into government capital contracts.
In May 2017, he was thrilled to be presented with an honorary doctorate by the University of Quinnipiac in Connecticut, home to the Museum of Ireland’s Great Hunger which boasts the greatest collection of art relating to the Irish Famine in the world.
A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, he is married to Helen O’Hare and the couple have four grown-up children. Máirtín is a keen runner.
He writes a weekly ezine and maintains a Twitter feed at @newbelfast.