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Freedom of the City

  • Freedom of the City of Belfast

    Receiving the Freedom of the City is the highest civic honour that can be awarded to an individual or organisation.

    It is awarded by councillors on behalf of the city in recognition of immense pride or of expressing gratitude for exemplary service.

    The first person to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Belfast was William Pirrie in 1898. To date, 59 men, 17 women and 10 organisations have received the Freedom of the City. Dáithí Mac Gabhann is the youngest ever recipient and the only person under 18 to receive it. 

    Many well-known figures have been made a Freeman of the City including HM Queen Elizabeth II, President Bill Clinton, Kenneth Branagh, Van Morrison and Dame Mary Peters.

    It is thought the tradition dates back to the early thirteenth century and while in earlier times there were many privileges and benefits connected to the title, today it is purely honorary.

    Despite popular myth, being a Freeman of the City of Belfast does not allow the recipient to graze sheep on the lawns of City Hall or expect complimentary drinks at any of the city’s pubs or hotels.

    US President Bill Clinton and Senator George J Mitchell were made Freemen of the City of Belfast in a joint ceremony at the Ulster Hall in April 2018, in recognition of their services to peace-building in Northern Ireland.

  • Freedom of the City recipients

    Freedom of the City recipients

    Date awarded

    Dáithí Mac Gabhann 3 June 2023
    Healthcare workers and those who worked tirelessly on the frontline during COVID-19 pandemic 25 August 2022
    President William Jefferson Clinton 9 April 2018
    Senator George J Mitchel 9 April 2018
    Sir Kenneth Branagh 2 October 2017
    The Nurses of Belfast 1 December 2015
    Michael Longley 23 March 2015
    Van Morrison 15 November 2013
    Dame Mary Peters 8 May 2013
    The Merchant Navy 30 April 2002
    The Ambulance Service of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board 11 September 1992
    The Northern Ireland Fire Brigade 21 August 1992
    John Hewitt 26 May 1983
    The Royal Ulster Constabulary and The Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve 30 May 1980
    The Ulster Defence Regiment

    2 May 1980

    The Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Reserve 9 April 1974
    Lord Grey of Naunton 7 November 1972
    The Lady Grey of Naunton 7 November 1972
    Alderman Sir Peter Studd 14 May 1971
    The Lady Mayoress of London Lady Studd 4 May 1971
    Alderman Thomas Gibson Henderson 21 February 1964
    Royal Sussex Regiment 6 October 1961
    Royal Air Force, Aldergrove 5 October 1957
    The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, Baronet 14 September 1956
    The Lady Mayoress of London, Lady Ackroyd 14 September 1956
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill 16 December 1955
    Councillor Sir James Norritt 11 November 1955
    Margaret Lawson 11 November 1955
    Royal Ulster Rifles 6 February 1954
    Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester 1 April 1952
    Vice-Admiral The Earl of Granville, Governor of Northern Ireland 1 January 1952
    The Countess Granville 1 January 1952
    Captain The Right Honourable Sir Basil Stanlake Brooke 1 May 1950
    Lady Cynthia Mary Brooke 1 May 1950
    Alderman Sir William Frederick Neill 3 October 1949
    Lady Neill 3 October 1949
    Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh 2 March 1949
    His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh 2 March 1949
    Field Marshall Sir Alan Francis Brook 3 September 1945
    General Dwight D. Eisenhower 1 June 1945
    Field Marshal The Honourable Sir Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander 5 April 1945
    Field Marshal The Honourable Sir Bernard Law Montgomery 1 November 1944
    Alderman James Dunlop Williamson 1 September 1942
    The Duchess of Abercorn 17 May 1935
    His Royal Highness Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster 3 April 1935
    Alderman William MacCartney 1 January 1935
    His Royal Highness Edward Albert, Prince of Wales 27 October 1932
    Councillor Sir William Frederick Coates 23 January 1931
    Lady Coates 23 January 1931
    Sir John Lavery, Knight 23 January 1930
    James Albert Edward, Third Duke of Abercorn 18 July 1927
    Alderman Sir William George Turner 1 January 1926
    Lady Agnes Turner 1 January 1926
    Sir Frederick William Moneypenny 1 January 1926
    Sir Robert Meyer Knight 8 September 1924
    Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George Duke of York 16 June 1924
    Sir James Johnston 1 December 1922
    Hariot Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava 1 March 1920
    Field Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson 1 August 1919
    Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, seventh Marquess of Londonderry 1 August 1919
    Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone 2 September 1918
    Henry Musgrave 1 March 1917
    Sir William Quartus Ewart 1 March 1917
    Sir Crawford McCullagh 23 January 1917
    Lady Margaret Craig McCullagh 23 January 1917
    Sir Edward Carson 4 August 1914
    Robert James McMordie 23 January 1914
    Julia McMordie 23 January 1914
    Sir James Henderson 1 May 1912
    J Whitelaw Reid 1 May 1912
    Sir Joseph Larmor 1 April 1912
    Sir Almroth Wright 1 April 1912
    Gustave Wilhelm Wolff 1 February 1911
    Sir John Newell Jordan 2 August 1910
    Andrew Carnegie 1 June 1910
    Sir Robert Hart 1 July 1908
    Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper 1 January 1908
    Sir Donald Currie 1 May 1906
    Margaret Montgomery Pirrie 5 April 1904
    Sir Daniel Dixon 1 February 1904
    Lord Roberts of Kandahar 9 October 1900
    Lieutenant-General Sir George Stuart White 11 May 1900
    The Marquis of Dufferin and Ava 1 March 1900
    The Marquis of Londonderry 1 March 1900
    Thomas Henry Ismay 1 February 1899
    Alderman William James Pirrie 1 January 1898
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