Castlederg Sinn Féin Councillor Maolíosa McHugh has pledged to be a “Mayor for all” after becoming the first male first citizen of Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Colr. McHugh accepted the chain of office on Monday after being nominated by his nephew, Colr. Ruairí McHugh.
The Mayor, an Irish language enthusiast and former essential skills coordinator at the ‘Tech’ on the Strand Road, was first elected to Strabane District Council in 2011, before being elected to the new Derry City and Strabane District Council in 2014. He was Presiding Councillor of DCSDC in 2014/15 while the new authority shadowed the outgoing Derry City and Strabane District councils in their final years.
He is the brother of the late, former Strabane District councillor Charlie McHugh, who died in 2008 after having served in the Derg area from 1985. Charlie McHugh’s son, Colr. Ruairí McHugh, nominating his uncle for the position, with members of their family and party supporters watching on from the public gallery, including the former West Tyrone MP and senior Sinn Féiner Pat Doherty, described him as someone who had excelled as a teacher at the Derry ‘Tech’, and as a promoter of the Irish language and Gaelscoileanna in the area.
“I just wish Charlie McHugh was here to witness his wee brother take on the role,” he said, referring to his late father.
Accepting the office Colr, McHugh, pledged that he would be “a Mayor for all” and that he would be “inclusive, providing civic leadership and support to all communities, from The Derg to Sperrin and from Tullywhisker to Tullyally”.
He said he was “honoured and privileged” to take on the role at a time of “huge social and political change” for the North West.
Colr. McHugh pledged to work with his counterparts in Donegal to bring the weight of influence of a North Western population of 300,000 citizens to bear on regional and national governments.
He identified Brexit as the “greatest challenge” facing the district at present, and said the council needed to reinforce the existing “strong bonds with Donegal”, and to put appropriate structures in place to attract investment to the wider area. He said the necessary road infrastructure to the North West needed to be developed to encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and support indigenous employers and businesses. Colr. McHugh said he would work tirelessly to promote inward investment and economic growth as first citizen so that “young people can live and work at home”.
A former jobs skills advisor at the ‘Tech’, Colr. McHugh said he was acutely aware of the “corrosive effect a lack of opportunity has on society”.
“The lack of opportunity and hope can manifest itself in drug and alcohol abuse,” he said. With this in mind he said he was nominating Aware Defeat Depression as his mayoral charity for the year.
A champion of the Irish language, the new mayor said: “I hope to promote the language and show that it is there to be shared.” He said understanding of the Irish language gave people an understanding of both “yourself and others”. And in reference to the challenges and opportunities that are likely to present themselves in the year ahead, he remarked, “ní neart go cur le chéile”, which, in Irish, means, “we’re stronger together”.