Derry’s new Mayor says he wants a “spirit of partnership” to be a key part of civic life during the year ahead.
The SDLP’s Martin Reilly was elected First Citizen at last night’s annual general meeting of Derry City Council.
In his acceptance speech at the Guildhall, Councillor Reilly said that, as Mayor, he would respect the “apolitical nature” of the office, “respecting the mandate of all parties in this Chamber - in the same way I expect my mandate as First Citizen to be respected by others.”
Mayor Reilly, a native of Co. Fermanagh, added: “This Council was the first to espouse the values of powersharing and I look forward to working closely with the Deputy Mayor from the unionist tradition.”
The new Mayor described his adopted home as a “city transformed”.
“What clearer evidence of change and transformation is there than that provided by a gaze out this window over at Ebrington? A previous military site now provides a shared space - open to children and families to play in.
“The neighbouring Peace Bridge has also quickly become an iconic structure and has brought our citizens closer together in more ways than one.”
Mayor Reilly said Derry’s culture year celebrations gave it an “international platform to shine as a beautiful, confident and diverse city.”
He added: “As First Citizen, I recognise that across our city and district we need to grasp this chance to speak positively about Ireland’s north west. I look forward to welcoming thousands upon thousands of visitors to this city as we approach the second half of our City of Culture year.
“Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the Walled City Tattoo, Lumiere, the Turner Prize and, of course, the spectacular Return of Colmcille next weekend, are just some of the events that this city can look forward to.”
The Mayor said that, while there was much to be excited about, a lot of work remained to be done.
“We need to ensure that there is a real lasting legacy from our year as City of Culture. We need to build on the great successes of the events thus far in showcasing our city to a national and international audience as a vibrant tourist destination full of song, dance, culture and creativity.
“Yet we know that one year as City of Culture is not going to be a solution in itself. Derry’s One Plan needs delivery - Ebrington and Fort George need further development, our University needs expanding, our private sector needs growing and our ailing economy and inadequate infrastructure need serious attention.”
The Mayor ended his speech on a personal note, paying tribute to the city he and his wife, Bronagh, has chosen to make their home in.
“The warmth of the welcome of the people of this city is known throughout the world – as Mayor, I am able to testify to this ‘legenderry’ welcome as I and my family have experienced it firsthand.”