New Derry & Strabane Mayor Graham Warke and Deputy Mayor Christopher Jackson installed
Derry & Strabane’s new Mayor Graham Warke and Deputy Mayor Christopher Jackson have been officially installed in their respective offices tonight.
DUP Alderman Graham Warke was conferred with the First Citizen’s chain of office at the Guildhall on Thursday evening after being nominated by his party colleague, Ald. Hilary McClintock.
Both Mayor Warke and new Sinn Féin Deputy Mayor Colr. Christopher Jackson, who was nominated by his party colleague Colr. Sandra Duffy, said they were honoured to take on their respective offices.
On a night when the Guildhall would normally be packed with family and friends gathered to witness the historic occasion, only a handful of representatives and officials were present and many had to witness the occasion virtually online.
There was a further stark reminder of the times we are in when a gloved Council official wiped down the Mayoral chain before it was conferred.
Opening the annual ceremony- this year held in a hybrid virtual and in person format - outgoing Mayor Brian Tierney referenced a Mayoral year like no other due to COVID.
“It’s a day of mixed emotions for me as I hand over my chain to my successor. My year has been an unusual one to say the least,” he said.
The SDLP Ballyarnett Councillor said he had been “truly honoured” to represent the people of Derry & Strabane District in a year which saw the heads of terms signed off the for City Deal and investment and progress of a range of infrastructure projects.
Colr. Tierney relayed a special thanks to his Deputy Mayor over the past year, Ald. Warke, and to his own family, without whom he said the past year would have been impossible.
He also praised Council officers and staff, the team in the Mayor’s Office, his drivers and staff in the Guildhall.
“Looking back to when I took office last year little did I think for one minute we would still be dealing with COVID-19 a year on,” he said, before paying tribute to all the community based and sports groups and health care staff, shop workers, drivers and businesses for tending to everyone else over the past year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked us all to the core,” he said, offering sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.
“We need to continue to adhere to the public health advice,” he said, adding that there could be no room for complacency now that society was opening up once more.
Mr Tierney also recalled the sad passing of “former party leader and personal friend” John Hume during his year in office, and the deaths of other major figures at home and across the world.
Tributes were paid to Mayor Tierney from across the Council spectrum.
In his speech, new Mayor of Derry City & Strabane District Graham Warke said he was “truly honoured” to be elected Mayor for Derry City & Strabane District Council for the incoming year.
“On a personal note I know my late father David is looking down on me tonight and would be very proud,” he said. “I want to thank my family and friends who are watching me online tonight. I would like to take this opportunity to praise my mother Jeanette on the excellent work she has been doing breaking barriers down for the city and the strong community values she has taught me on helping people. I am so proud to be Dad to my two beautiful children Katelyn and Ollie and I want to thank them for always supporting me and giving me the drive to take on this role, finally but not least a special thanks to my partner Tracy who has been my rock and is always there to support me.”
Mayor Warke said we were “coming into a period with light at the end of the tunnel after a very challenging year but I am very hopeful that we will have better times ahead”.
“The citizens of Londonderry and the entire district ,” he added, “have been going through the greatest challenge ever but we are getting there – we have the vaccination programme in place and hopefully things are returning to a new norm. Our unique community spirit and generosity continues to play an important part in getting us through this.
“The Covid19 pandemic has affected our city in the most fundamental ways – it has impacted on our everyday lives and on our interactions with family and friends; our workplaces and our schools, our businesses and our frontline services – all have been affected by it and the challenges it has created.
“And of course, it has brought great sadness to the many who have lost loved ones, and my thoughts are with those who are still struggling to come to terms with that loss.
“Charities, sports clubs, community groups, churches and neighbours have come together to support those in need and those on the frontline. The scale of that effort has been so impressive and I think a testament to the true spirit of the people of this council area and its people. It demonstrates our people’s remarkable resilience, and that is something that sets us in good stead as we take the next steps on our recovery journey, together,
“I would also like to extend my thanks for the outgoing Mayor Councillor Brian Tierney on his successful year. It was a difficult year but you stepped up to the challenge and had a very positive year in unusual circumstances, enjoy the time off with your family. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the newly elected Deputy Mayor Councillor Christopher Jackson and look forward to working with him in the year ahead.”
Mayor Warke announced at the meeting that his chosen Mayoral charity for the year ahead will be Foyle Down Syndrome Trust. “I hope that during my year as mayor I will be able to raise much needed money for the charity as well as help raise their profile and create awareness of the charity and the fantastic work it does,” Ald. Warke said.
DEPUTY MAYOR JACKSON
New Deputy Mayor Christopher Jackson said he was “honoured tonight to take up the role as Deputy Mayor representing the people of Derry and Strabane on behalf of Sinn Féin and also on behalf of the people of the Waterside whom I’m proud to represent”.
He said: “I would like to firstly pay tribute to the outgoing Mayor and Deputy Mayor for your hard work during what really was a challenging and difficult year for everyone.
“I would also like to congratulate the new Mayor Alderman Warke and wish you and your family all the best for what will no doubt be a busy and exciting year.”
Colr. Jackson said society has been turned upside down in the last year as the Covid19 pandemic swept across our community and changed life as we know it.
“It has been challenging, it has been difficult, but as a Council and a community we continue to battle our way through it and support those who need it. We protected jobs, lifted people’s spirits and supported some of the most vulnerable in our communities. And now we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There are better days ahead.
“I’m delighted to see many of our small businesses, bars and restaurants and our shops open and welcoming customers safely once again. We now look towards economic recovery and rebuilding society – at the heart of this is creating more jobs, protecting existing jobs and supporting workers and small businesses.
“There are huge opportunities for this city and district. It has been an exciting year – we have seen the delivery of the biggest single investment ever in this city’s history through the £250 million City Deal and Inclusive Growth Deal.
“We now have the green light for a state-of-the-art graduate entry medical school at Magee University and I think we can all agree that the events of the last year have shown us the importance of having well trained health workers, working within communities, caring for people and saving lives.
“This is about opportunity and the future. We are in a new era. These opportunities are no longer an aspiration, they are here.
“We need to embrace this and build a district of opportunity for young people, with more jobs, more social and affordable homes and more money in the pockets of workers and families.”
He added: “As we begin a new year for Derry and Strabane, let’s kick off with a willingness to work together, right across the chamber, to deliver a better deal for workers, families and communities.
“I look forward to working with the Mayor, other Councillors and Council officers and workers on behalf of the people of Derry and Strabane.”