‘Ex-prisoners play key role in city’

Mayor Kevin Campbell pictured with retired Bishop Derry and Raphoe, James Mahaffey and his wife Thelma Mahaffey.(Photo Tom  Heaney, nwpresspics)
Mayor Kevin Campbell pictured with retired Bishop Derry and Raphoe, James Mahaffey and his wife Thelma Mahaffey.(Photo Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Former mayor of Derry Kevin Campbell has said former political prisoners play a key role in the life of the city.

Sinn Féin councillor Kevin Campbell who served three terms of imprisonment during the conflict, was the mayor of the city last year. On Sunday he will address the annual Derry Volunteers commemoration in the Cemetery to remember republicans from this area who died during the conflict.

Colr. Campbell said his republicanism and experience as an ex-prisoner informed everything he did as mayor of the city.

“The first thing I said when I became mayor last year was I would be a mayor for everyone in the city. The concept of representing protestant, catholic and dissenter is at the heart of republicanism.

“I brought my Irish republicanism with me when I became mayor,” he said.

The Creggan councillor also said representing all the citizens of the city did not diminish his own political beliefs. “I travelled to all areas of the city and was accepted by everyone. I had the opportunity to address the Apprentice Boys in the Memorial Hall. That was a first for me and my republicanism was still the same after it and not weakened or diminished in any way.

“Following the tragic death of PSNI Constable Phillipa Reynolds I attended the wake and funeral and expressed my condolences to her parents and friends on behalf of the city,” he said.

Col. Campbell also said he believes the city has become more united over the last year. “My year in office coincided with some wonderful events for the city, beginning with the Clipper festival and then moving into all the tremendous events since the start of the City of Culture celebrations.

“All have showed what this city is capable of delivering and the response from the people has been amazing.

“The Bright Brand New Day initiative led by Rev David Latimer was one of the highlights of the year for me. Listening to the speech by Martin Luther King III I thought it was a very proud day for the city.

“I was there as mayor and as a proud Irish republican and the two did not clash in any way. My ideals are the same as they were forty years ago and I am proud to be part of a process of change, a process in which republicans have played a key role,” he said. Colr. Campbell also said his years spent in prison have contributed to his outlook. “Being an ex-prisoner myself and having spent 14 years in jail, including during the blanket protest, I know that there are many other ex-prisoners in this city who hold positions of responsibility who deliver for Derry on a daily basis,” he said.

The Creggan colr. also said he hoped the legacy of the City of Culture year will include improved opportunities for the young people of Derry and the wider north west. “As well as leaving a legacy of a united city, I would like to see a permanent entertainment venue in Derry capable of hosting major acts,” he said.