Derry man Gerry McMonagle was elected as the new mayor of Letterkenny this week but he insists that his heart will always be in his native city.
Councillor McMonagle received his chain of office at the Annual General Meeting of Letterkenny Urban Council on Monday night, becoming the first Sinn Féin elected representative to hold the post.
His appointment has placed the north west in the unusual position of Letterkenny having a Derry-born mayor and Derry having a Donegal-born mayor.
Councillor McMonagle, from a well-known republican family, has been involved in republican politics for many years.
The Derry man has lived in Letterkenny since 1984 when he had to leave the North because of his involvement in republicanism.
He said he was “delighted” to have been chosen for the top job and added that he is looking forward to the year ahead.
His appointment came about following an agreement between the nine councillors on Letterkenny Urban District Council to rotate the mayoral position.
Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ the new mayor said; “I was delighted to be chosen for the job. It is the first time we have had a Sinn Féin mayor in Letterkenny so it was a historic occasion,” he said.
The town’s first citizen said many of his family members, who are originally from Creggan, were at the AGM on Monday night to watch him receive his chain. “All my family came down from Derry for the night for the meeting. They were all there and my mother kept telling my children how proud she was, it was lovely for her.
“I have an aunt and uncle who are home from Australia at the moment and they were there too so it was nice for them to see it as well. We all had a great night,” he explained.
He also said that while he is looking forward to serving the people of Letterkenny as mayor that he is fiercely proud to be from Derry. “I’ll always be a Derry man at heart. I was watching the Derry match on Sunday and was filled with pride. There’s been a lot of slagging going on here since then over the possibility that Derry could face Donegal in the Ulster final.
“People have been asking me where my loyalties will lay if that is the case but I have to say that my Derry jersey is in the wardrobe and it will be coming out no matter who they are playing, even if it’s Donegal. That would be a pretty unique situation,” he said.
He also said that he loves living in Letterkenny, describing it as the best place to live. “You could not get a better town. I love Derry but Letterkenny is a great town. It is a great place for the family,” he said.
The Creggan man said he hopes to use his cross-border connections in the year ahead. “There is great co-operation between Derry City Council and Donegal County Council and I want to try to build on that. I want to build momentum for the entire north west region, working with my counterparts in the Derry area.
“If you look at the villages between Derry and Letterkenny they are growing, mostly with Derry people. That is strengthening the links between Derry and Letterkenny and I want to help upgrade those villages and the connections in terms of infrastructure,” he explained,
The new mayor has also said he is looking forward to working with representatives in his native city. “It must be a first to have a Donegal man as mayor of Derry and a Derry man as mayor of Letterkenny.
“My old friend and comrade, Kevin Campbell from Creggan, is now the deputy mayor of Derry and I have known him for a long, long time.
“I’m looking forward to working with Kevin and others across in Derry City Council and across the north west in the year ahead on issues beneficial to both Derry and Donegal,” colr. McMonagle said.