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

Head of North West Migrant Forum, Lilian Seenoi Barr
Cllr Lilian Barr, SDLP -Credit:North West Migrant Forum

An SDLP councillor is set to make history as she becomes the first black Mayor in Northern Irish history.

Councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr, who was elected to Derry City and Strabane Council last year for the SDLP, has been selected to serve as the council's next Mayor.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said he was proud that Councillor Barr would represent the party in the role.

Read more: NI's first ever black politician on lack of ethnic minority MLAs in Executive

Foyle MP Mr Eastwood said: “Since moving to Derry from Kenya, Lilian has embedded herself in the centre of life in our city, getting involved in a range positive initiatives, mostly notably helping others from migrant backgrounds adjust to life in their new home.

"She has become an important community activist, speaking out on behalf of those who are marginalised and at times, struggle to have their voices heard.

"We were delighted when Lilian joined the SDLP, sharing our vision of a peaceful and prosperous future for people in our city, region and island based on respect for difference and diversity.

"She has been a source of constant enthusiasm, energy and positivity and is a valued addition to the SDLP family."

He continued that it was a "proud moment for everyone" when Cllr Barr was coopted onto the council in 2021 and that her strong vote in last year’s council election showed how highly the local community think of her.

He continued: “Nominating Lilian as our Mayor is significant not only for our city and party, but for all those who struggle to see themselves represented in public life.

"It is particularly important in this moment when others are trying to reassert a narrow, nativist politics that we step up and step in to show what our city and our island is really about.

"Lilian’s story shows that talent and hard work can make a difference and I think it’s fitting that she will make history as the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, a city and region known the world over for standing up against oppression.

"I cannot imagine what it is like to have to move halfway across the world and make a new life for yourself in a place very different from your home, but there is no doubt that Lilian is a true ‘Derry girl’ and I’m looking forward to working with her throughout her year as Mayor.”

Cllr Barr will take over from Derry City and Strabane Council's current Mayor, Sinn Féin's Patricia Logue.

Councillor Barr said: “I cannot express how much the honour of serving as Mayor of Derry and Strabane means to me. The people of this city have taken me into their hearts and everywhere I go I never fail to be amazed at the warmth, kindness and generosity of the people who live here.

"Having initially come to Derry as a refugee facing an uncertain future, I can now truly say that my family have found their home. I am proud to be a Maasai woman and a Derry girl.

"The significance of my appointment as Mayor is not lost on me, and I will work for every single person in this city regardless of their religion, ethnicity or background.

She added: "These are the values I have carried with me since getting involved in politics and are reflected in the ethos of my party.

“I’m looking forward to working with my party, my SDLP council colleagues and everyone on the council in my upcoming year as Mayor. I’m incredibly excited to get started and to get out meeting people and visiting the many fantastic organisations throughout our city.

"I will use this year to celebrate our successes and shine a spotlight on the issues impacting far too many families here. I hope that I will also be able to inspire others and show what’s possible in a great city like ours.”

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