Celebrations and congratulations in Kenya as Derry's 'proud Masaai woman' set to become Mayor

Siblings Senator Ledama Olekina and Councillor Lillian Seenoi-Barr in Kenya
Siblings Senator Ledama Olekina and Councillor Lillian Seenoi-Barr in Kenya -Credit:Senator Ledama Olekina / Twitter

Kenya is celebrating the historic selection of councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr as the first ever black Mayor in Northern Ireland.

News of Mrs Barr's elevation to the top post in Derry City and Strabane council and has been greeted with congratulations across Kenya, where her brother is a member of the Kenyan Senate.

Derry's next first citizen's rise in local politics here has now featured in a slew of media outlets in Kenya, including the Nairobi Wire and the Star newspaper also based in the capital.

Read more: NI's first black Mayor 'ready' as disgraced conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and David Icke latch on to news

Read more: History made in Northern Ireland as Cllr Lilian Barr selected to become country's first black Mayor

Her brother, Senator for the Narok area in Kenya Ledama Olekina took to social media to share the good news, saying: "Please join me in congratulating my baby sister Councillor Lilian Seenoi for being elected as the first black – Maasai Mayor of the City of Derry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom."

Alongside a link to a Belfast Live article about Derry's next Mayor, he wrote: "May the good lord open many doors for you as you lead your people of Derry."

Also writing on social media, IT executive and media commentator Mohamed Tache Dida said: "When one of us shines anywhere in the world, their lights reflect on us back at home."

The Nairobi Wire media outlet wrote: "During her time in Kenya, Seenoi advocated for the rights of Maasai women and girls, campaigning against female genital mutilation and early marriages. She will succeed Sinn Féin’s Patricia Logue as the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane Council."

Mrs Barr's selection by the SDLP for Mayoral duties in Derry also attracted negative attention online from far-right figures around the world - including disgraced conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and David Icke.

But the Foyleside councillor told Belfast Live she is undeterred.

"I am aware of [the abuse], but it will not affect me," she said. "I am genuinely not interested. People are telling me about it, but I am not interested."

First Minister Michelle O'Neill also moved, alongside the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, to show support amid the torrent of online abuse.

"I want to offer my full support to councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr," Mrs O'Neill said.

"There can be absolutely no place in our society for this abhorrent racist and misogynistic abuse."

She added: "Those responsible do not speak for the wonderful and welcoming people of Derry and Strabane, and the work being done to build a better future for all."

SDLP leader and Derry MP Colum Eastwood said: "The racially motivated attacks on Lilian have been coordinated by far-right political actors Hell bent on spreading misinformation to fuel their own appalling ideology.

“These people don’t care about places like Derry and Strabane, they don’t care about the people who live here and have made a home for their families here. The hate at the heart of their politics could not stand more starkly against the compassion that Lilian has shown for the people of Derry, people across this island and those in need even further afield."

He added: “Lilian will be an excellent Mayor precisely because she cares deeply about people regardless of their background, she is fearless in her advocacy and she works every single day to bring communities closer together. We will not be cowed by people like Alex Jones or his band of hate. We’ve got Lilian’s back - that is not going to change.”

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