Sinn Fein Councillor Elisha McCallion has made history by being installed as the first ever Mayor of the new Derry City & Strabane District Council.
Relatives and friends of the first First Citizen joined hundreds of other well wishers who arrived to watch Elisha accept the nomination, which was unanimously accepted during the new supercouncil’s first Annual General Meeting.
Veteran DUP Councillor Thomas Kerrigan for the Derg ward was also granted the role of Deputy Mayor at the meeting.
Later, watched by her proud husband Declan and the couple’s three young children and extended family, Galliagh native Colr. McCallion spoke from the stage of the Main Hall about how she was honoured to be taking on the role.
She also told the Journal at the Guildhall she said: “It’s a great honour and a privilege at any stage to be asked by your party colleagues to be a Mayor but I think it’s particularly humbling and a huge privilege to have been asked in this such a historic time and a new era for local government.
“It’s certainly going to be a busy year. It’s a huge challenge but I think along with the challenge that presents itself comes lots of opportunities and I think that is what we need to do in Derry and Strabane is grasp those opportunities for the citizens we represent and it is certainly something I intend to do.”
She added that in the year ahead the establishment of the Jobs Creation Unit within the new council would be one of the main priorities during her term in office.
“There is a personal element to me as well that will be focusing on youth and young people and I will certainly be focusing on them.”
Live musicians and young Irish dancers in their green and white costumes provided the entertainment in the Main Hall during the evening celebrations.
Seated guests were told by Colr. McCallion: “I want to be a new Mayor for a new era, creating a fresh environment for all of the people in the north west.
“I will be a Mayor for everyone, providing civic leadership to all as we come together to form a new community across the north west stretching from Aghyaran to Culmore.
“I will seek to promote partnership-working, respect, inclusive politics and equality. While the geography may be different, there is one thing that is constant right across the new council area – its people.
“People are our greatest asset and as Mayor, I will work daily to promote and create new opportunities for everyone right across the region.
The North West suffers decades of underinvestment. This council with a strategic vision going forward will lead positive change for this region and its people.
Announcing her Mayoral charity for the coming year, Mayor McCallion said: “I have chosen a charity which is very close to my heart, the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society, with its branches in Derry and Strabane, which helps people battling against dementia and their families across the north west.
“Many families, including my own, have felt the impact of dementia at first hand. My own grandmother, Betty Anderson, an inspirational figure to me and many in my wider family circle, has been dealing with Alzheimer’s and I have watched as my mother and her sisters look after my granny with such care and dedication.
“This will not only raise much needed funds but also raise awareness of the important work this charity carries out every day.”
She added: “Finally I would like to thank my own family for the excellent support they have given me to allow me to carry out my responsibilities as a public representative. I know that will continue over the course of the next year and I thank them in advance for their unstinting support.
As we move forward together into this new era of challenge and opportunity – we do so with confidence in our ability to deliver the hopes and aspirations of those who have entrusted us to be their public representatives.
In my year as mayor I am ready for this challenge.
Tributes were also paid from all sides of the chamber to outgoing chairman of the shadow council Sinn Fein Councillor Maoliosa McHugh, led by Mayor McCallion,
In bowing out from his role as chair, Colr. McHugh said he believed the new supercouncil was in a strong position going forward.
“A good start is half the work’, and I believe a good start has been made,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Thomas Kerrigan meanwhile said he was delighted to accept the honour bestowed upon him, and said his years as chair of Strabane District Council would serve as a good grounding for the coming term in office.