New faces line up to run alongside experienced councillors for SDLP

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Several new faces are set to be unveiled on the SDLP ticket for the forthcoming elections to Derry City & Strabane District Council in May.

First-time candidates in Derry will include barrister, Mary Durkan, migrants’ rights campaigner, Lilian Seenoi-Barr, and retired nurse Cathy Breslin.

Rory Farrell, Colum Eastwood’s office manager, who contested the local elections in 2014, will also run again.

In Strabane Steven Edwards, a human rights law graduate, Jason Barr, an undertaker, and Cara Hunter, a Clady-native with a background in journalism, will seek election for the first time.

Council group leader for the SDLP, Martin Reilly, said: “The SDLP is running a committed team of experienced councilllors plus fresh faces who all bring a set of talents and energy which will be relevant to people in each part of the DC&SDC. This diverse group all bring a sense of passion for improving their local area and will be putting a new City Deal for the region at the heart of our work on the Council in the next term ahead.”

Mrs. Breslin, a former nurse from Creggan, said: “I am well aware of the challenges facing people within my community and as a mother of six, I have encountered many difficulties, I have walked the walk in regards poverty and deprivation. For many years now I have worked in a caring capacity within the community, both in paid and volunteer roles, for the sick and elderly. As a retired nurse my goal has always been one of nurturing and giving back to my community.”

Ms. Durkan said: “Fifty years following the civil rights movement, economic equality remains an aspiration; the ‘isolation of the West’, referenced by John Hume, is still very much an issue. It is imperative Derry voices are not lost in the political stalemate here amidst the Brexit chaos- with Derry being the most Brexit-impacted city on these islands. Through my work, I see the impact of the corrosive Welfare Reform legislation on the most vulnerable. I am also very aware of the challenges facing local businesses.”

Ms. Seenoi-Barr said: “I have worked as a human rights defender for over 24 years. My work began in Kenya fighting for Maasai women and girl’s rights- advocating for the eradication of female genital mutilation, early forced marriages and access to free primary education for deprived communities. I migrated to Derry in 2010, since then I have been involved in promoting and protecting minority rights, in Northern Ireland through political engagement, dispute resolution and reconciliation.”

Mr. Farrell said: “Communities across the North are facing unprecedented challenges with the looming threat of Brexit and the lack of political institutions at Stormont. There is widespread uncertainty about what the future holds and there is unease about funding for our health and education systems.

“Working in frontline politics, I witness this on a daily basis. People are concerned about living standards, the impact of welfare cuts and access to vital services. Given the current political stalemate and stagnation, local councils are the only democratically elected forum where these issues can be raised and potentially addressed.”