Derry’s first ever female Mayor, Marlene Jefferson, passed away yesterday. Mrs Jefferson, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), was elected as Derry’s first ever female Mayor on June 9, 1980. However, her appointment caused a three party walk out from council. The Irish Independence Party, Alliance and DUP walked out in protest at what they alleged was an arrangement between the SDLP and Official Unionists to deny the minority parties any chance of gaining the mayoralty.
UUP Derry City and Strabane District Councillor Alderman Mary Hamilton, described Mrs. Jefferson as a “wonderful lady and friend”.
“Marlene was a Mayor and a councillor for absolutely everyone - it didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, Marlene was there for everyone.
“Marlene was a wonderful friend and lady - when she became the city’s first ever lady Mayor she helped to change things for women in politics locally.”
Colr. Hamilton who served as Derry’s deputy Mayor from 2012-2013, said Mrs. Jefferson was always willing and able to offer her advice when it came to local politics.
“Marlene was so passionate about public life and doing what she could to help others - she really helped me throughout my time as a local councillor,” said Colr. Hamilton.
“I would like to use this opportunity to extend my sincerest sympathy on behalf of the UUP to Marlene’s family.”
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Councillor Elisha McCallion extended her condolences to Mrs. Jefferson’s family and friends.
Paying tribute to the Mrs Jefferson and the important role she played in politics in the city and region, Mayor McCallion said she would be greatly missed by her family and many friends.
“While I personally did not know Marlene, I have heard many of my council colleagues talking fondly of her and how she was kind and generous and very passionate about her city and its people. She was the first female Mayor of the city, and she can take pride in being responsible for setting down the stepping stones for other female politicians in the city to follow in her footsteps.
“I would like to extend my sincere condolences to her family and friends at this sad time,” she added.
Local community worker, Jeanette Warke, described Mrs. Jefferson as a close friend.
“We were life-long friends. I grew up only a few streets away from Marlene and anyone who knew her will know that she was such a mother figure to all in her family.”