Tributes have been paid to the Derry City Council’s final Mayor ahead of the local authority’s disbandment and the advent of the supercouncil.
During the historic event in the Guildhall on Tuesday evening, an emotional Brenda Stevenson spoke of what an honour it has been to serve as First Citizen for the past ten months.
The SDLP Councillor received rapturous applause from all sides of the chamber at the Full Council meeting, which brought to end 42 years of Derry City Council meetings.
The Derry City & Strabane District Council will officially come into being next on Wednesday April 1st.
Colr. Stevenson said that the final meeting was “a very joyous occasion”, adding that as she was not going to be part of the new supercouncil this would also be the last council meeting she would be chairing after nine years as an elected representative.
“Over the past nine years all parties have treated me with respect and given me advice when needed.
“It has been a rollercoaster but I have really enjoyed it.”
SDLP Council group leader Gerard Diver led the tributes to Colr. Stevenson.
“I congratulate you on a whirlwind 10 months. You hit the ground running back in June and it would be fair to say haven’t stopped,” he said.
He added that the First Citizen had carried out her role with “a tremendous amount of energy and zeal” adding: “The sense of pride you engendered has shone through”.
“We are genuinely saddened you will not be part of the new council but knowing you will embrace whatever challenges come your way in the future.
“You are a credit to yourself, your party, your city and district and most of all you are a credit to your family.”
Sinn Fein Council group leader Paul Fleming also commended Mrs Stevenson for the way she has conducted herself and the “sheer excitement” and energy she brought to the role.
He also praised Colr. Stevenson for being a Mayor for all “without fear or favour”.
DUP Councillor Gary Middleton, who was Deputy Mayor for the past 10 months, added: “We have got to know one another well and you have been a great ambassador this year for all the citizens of the city.
“You have done a fantastic job and you represented everybody, nobody was left out and you did everything with a smile.”
Colr. Stevenson returned the compliment and was joined by others in praising Colr. Middleton for how he conducted himself and was a Deputy Mayor for all the citizens of the city.
Colr. Diver also said there was a real sense of occasion at the council meeting, and paid tribute to the contribution made by so many over the past 42 years and “in some very difficult times”.
He said; “I am sure there has been many big days in the history of this organisation but I think today is one of real significance with Derry City Council being consigned to history.”
A number of current councillors will be stepping down from public life along with Colr. Stevenson, including veteran SDLP Councillor Jim Clifford and his party colleagues Ann Donnelly, Thomas Conway, Eamon McAuley and along with Mark O’Donnell along with veteran DUP Councillor Joe Miller and his party colleague April Garfield-Kidd and Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O’Hagan.