Smyth was first elected to Belfast City Council for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in 1981, representing 'Area F' which was equivalent to the modern wards of Falls, Clonard, Blackstaff and Shaftesbury. However Area F was abolished in 1985, and Smyth moved to the Court district electoral area which covered the Greater Shankill area. He was elected and held his seat at each subsequent election.
In the 1990s, Smyth's two sons were jailed on drugs charges. Following this, he spent considerable time campaigning against drugs, and in 2003 joined European Cities Against Drugs. In 1995-96, he served as Lord Mayor of Belfast, and during his term of office, he formally welcomed Bill Clinton on a visit to Belfast.
At the elections to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996, Smyth stood in West Belfast, but was unsuccessful in the heavily republican constituency. The list he headed won only 4.2% of the votes cast. However, he was indirectly elected, as being placed seventh on the DUP's regional list ultimately enabled him to take one of the party's two "top-up" seats.
In September 1996, Smyth announced "I have started my boycott. I will not shop in any Catholic shop". He also claimed that "the President [Bill Clinton] stands for republicanism and is a supporter of it". He reversed his boycott call a week later, describing his statement as "a bit hasty".
Smyth stood in Northern Ireland Assembly election, 1998 in Belfast East, but was not elected. In the 2001 UK general election, he stood for the Westminster seat of West Belfast, but was again unsuccessful, taking 6.4% of the vote.
In 2000, Smyth quit the DUP after he failed to win the party's nomination for the Lord Mayoralty. He was persuaded to return, but in 2003, he again announced that he was standing down as a councillor, in order to concentrate on his religious work. The following year, he decided to continue, He then stood for the Lord Mayoralty again, but was beaten by the Alliance Party's Tom Ekin on the casting vote of Martin Morgan, the previous year's Lord Mayor. Smyth stood for election as the Deputy Lord Mayor but was defeated by Joe O'Donnell of Sinn Féin, this time on the casting vote of Ekin. Following this defeat, reports claim that he told Ekin "your hands are covered in blood, you shameless traitor". Despite his strong opposition to Sinn Féin, Smyth disregarded the DUP's policy stating that its members should have no contact with the group.
Smyth again announced that he was standing down as a councillor in December 2004, on this occasion in an interview in which he made some criticisms of Ian Paisley's leadership of the DUP, and in particular the placement of some former members of the Ulster Unionist Party in prominent party roles. He did not stand for re-election in 2005, and he instead focussed on his role as founder and Reverend of the Jesus Saves Mission Church, closely aligned with the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. He left the DUP, and gave an interview in which he claimed that the unionist community on the Shankill Road did not want loyalist paramilitaries to give up their weapons.
In 2007, Smyth spoke out against the DUP's implementation of the St Andrews Agreement. Following Paisley's agreement to stand down as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, he stated that Paisley "has gone back on everything he ever preached and there was no way he could continue as leader although I do think he should have stood down years ago."
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- Barry McCaffrey, "Unionists in uproar as Alliance 'partners' SF", nuzhound.com, 2 June 2004.
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- Stephen Gordon, "'Shocking remarks' slammed by SDLP MLA", Belfast Telegraph, 2 October 2005.
- Alana Fearon, "U-turn forced Paisley to quit", North Belfast News, 14 September 2007.
|Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast
|Lord Mayor of Belfast
1995 - 1996