Derry was celebrating following the Slugger O’Toole Political Awards on Thursday night.
There were wins for Martin McGuinness and the Bloody Sunday campaigners, and Mayor of Derry, Councillor Colum Eastwood also shared the limelight.
The 27 year-old was named ‘Up and Coming Politician of the Year,’ at the third annual Slugger O’Toole awards at the Black Box in Belfast. On accepting his award Mayor Eastwood quipped: “Being named ‘Up and Coming Politician’ will probably be the kiss of death on my political career now.”
While the Mayor may by up and coming, he’s also something of an SLDP veteran. He joined the party as a teenager in 1998.
The award crowns what has been a fantastic year in charge for Derry’s number one citizen. The judges described Derry’s Mayor as already having become “a substantial figure with a strong base”.
The Mayor, who hails from Culmore Road, played an important role in one of the city’s historic occasions - the publication of the Saville Inquiry last year. He also championed the successful City of Culture bid.
It was this success that led to him being named the first local councillor to win the award.
Speaking to The Journal he said: “I didn’t know beforehand. It is just nice to win but I wasn’t expecting it. It is always good to have your work recognised but when they read out my name I just thought, ‘Oh no I haven’t prepared a speech.’
“That’s how sure I was I wasn’t going to win. I genuinely didn’t think I was going to get it.”
Asked why he thought he pipped his competition, The Mayor said: “Derry has had a good year and everyone knows that.
“We’ve had the Saville report and the fact that after years of dignified campaigning for the truth the Bloody Sunday families campaign was successful.
“Then there was the successful City of Culture bid, which saw some good positive headlines being generated here and carried far and wide. It gives hope for our young people for a better future.”
“There was also the fact that the people of Derry responded so well to the threat of dissident activity. The people of Derry stood strong against those who would drag us back to the past.
“Derry is a city that is moving forward and I have been honoured to play my part in that change.”
These facts did not escape the judging panel’s attention, who stated: “Colum had helped to persuade his own party and ran what was, at times, a very difficult campaign for the UK City of Culture.”
The awards also recognised the Bloody Sunday Campaign as Campaign of the Year. The Slugger O’Tooole judges praised their “long and dignified campaign seeking justice...vindicating the years of effort by the families and the campaigners.”
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness collected an award for ‘Building Trust and Credibility in Politics’.
The panel said of their decision: “Sinn Fein’s deputy First Minister helped to soothe a lot of passionate opposition to the Derry/ Londonderry City of Culture Bid from his own Republican community.”
Mr. McGuinness was also a winner of the 2009 Slugger O’Toole ‘Politician of the Year’ award.