‘I hope to be a Chairman for the whole of  district’

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

THE new chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has spoken to the Newry Democrat about his hopes and plans for the coming year.
Mark Murnin, who is an SDLP councillor for the Slieve Croob ward, was formally ratified as chair at last night's (Monday, June 4) council meeting, succeeding Roisin Mulgrew of Sinn Fein.
Councillor Murnin has known since February that he would be the SDLP candidate for the position, and has been glad for the opportunity that that time has afforded him to get prepared for the challenging role.
He is a publican by trade, and owns Paddy Kelly's pub in his native Ballynahinch as well as running a storage equipment business.
Asked if there was anything in particular that he would like to do with his year in office, Cllr Murnin said: "I would particularly like to engage with young people across the district and try to get them involved.
“I think if we start with the young people, it'll filter upwards. We've been told from Stormont that we've to engage in community planning and that's a bottom up process.
“So, I feel that we need to start at the real bottom, which is with our children. And if we can get our children out and get them active, and thinking about their health and thinking about the environment; their recycling, all of the things that the council need our citizens to do, that they can pass that up to their parents."
Each new chair will select charities that they will work with for the coming year, in order to try and raise funds for them.
One of the organisations that Cllr Murnin will definitely be working with is Glebe House, which is outside Downpatrick.
Glebe House works with young people and adults in bringing communities together and giving short breaks away to people who maybe wouldn't otherwise get the opportunity to get away.
“I've been aware of their work for a number of years, so I've selected them," said Cllr Murnin.
In addition to Glebe House, the new chairperson will also work with a Newry based charity, and will probably work with no more than three charities in all.
Although he was only officially installed last night, Cllr Murnin is already into his stride, with two events - the Ulster in Bloom launch in Belfast and an event with Ulsterbus in Newry set for today.
I asked Cllr Murnin, who was elected as a councillor at the super council elections in 2014, what his message would be for readers of the Newry Democrat.
He said: "I would hope to be a chairman for the whole district," he said.
“And one thing I feel is that we haven't fully united as a district yet. I've said it at meetings in Newry before that people in the northern end [of the district] need to appreciate that - I can be in Newry in 30 minutes. It takes me 30 minutes to get into Belfast city centre. So, Newry's our city and we need to be supporting our city."
Taking the success of Newry City AFC and Warrenpoint Town as inspiration, Cllr Murnin also spoke of his desire to set up a tournament for amateur league winners from across the district.
“We've a great footballing tradition across the whole district," he said.
“So I'd like to bring the amateur clubs together, and create a tournament for them which can hopefully start this year."


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