Councillor (Cllr) Cathy Mason (Sinn Féin) has been elected Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson at the Council’s Annual General Meeting held on Tuesday evening.
Cllr Oonagh Magennis (Sinn Féin) was elected Deputy Chairperson at the meeting.
In her inaugural speech as Chairperson, Cllr Mason said, “It is an honour and a privilege to be chosen to lead the Council in this difficult period; and as your Chairperson, I look forward to working with all Councillors, Council Officers, and all community organisations and agencies as we continue to build back from COVID-19 and mitigate the effects of Brexit.
“There is no doubt the last year has been a tough year for our businesses, our local families, our sports clubs and our community and voluntary groups - each of us have been impacted over the past year. So, this year will be about COVID-19 recovery, about investing in our local economy, protecting and attracting jobs, delivering a better deal for workers and families, building much more affordable homes, ensuring the impact of Brexit is mitigated as much as possible, and that we have sustainable infrastructure to enjoy the natural world around us.
“The impact of COVID-19 has also had a huge impact on our social and personal well-being. The pre-pandemic crisis in mental health and well-being has only worsened, persistent health inequalities have only widened and the need for local fit-for-purpose health services are greater than ever. The people of Newry, Mourne and Down district need hope, they need a Council that can deliver for them, and they need a district they can be proud of.”
The Chairperson stated that she was delighted to have Cllr Oonagh Magennis as Deputy Chairperson.
During her speech, the new Chairperson also thanked the outgoing Chairperson Cllr Laura Devlin and the Deputy Chairperson Cllr Harold McKee for having dispatched their responsibilities with great professionalism and humanity throughout extremely challenging times for our district in the past year.
Newly appointed Deputy Chairperson Cllr Magennis said, “It is a great honour for me to accept the nomination to be Deputy Chairperson for the upcoming year. As Councillors, we have grown together over the last twelve months in what has been an unprecedented year. Everyone rose to the challenge and the most significant lesson for us all is the importance of community. Community is the heart and soul of this district and Cathy and myself will endeavour to reach out to those communities to help and support them as best we can.”
Outgoing Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin thanked members and Council officers for their support over the past year and added, “When I took up this chain of office last year I did so in full knowledge that it would be a year like no other. I assumed Chairperson’s duties whilst we were in the midst of lockdown and doing all within our power to provide leadership and calm amidst the pandemic. The virus spread through our communities, so indiscriminately and without mercy. Yet our communities all did their bit to ensure it would not overcome them.
Fast forward to today and we see just how far we have come together. The success of the vaccine rollout has been as unprecedented as the speed at which the virus made its way through our communities. However, we all think of the many families left behind grieving loss due to COVID-19.
As I relinquish the Chain of Office tonight, I pay tribute to Cllr Harold McKee who so ably deputised when needed. I pay tribute to Cllr Mason and Cllr Magennis as they now assume their roles which I have every faith they will undertake with that same spirit of warmth, generosity and compassion.
Serving as your Chairperson has been the greatest honour of my life. Thank you everyone for affording me this opportunity and I look forward to devoting myself to serving the people of the Mournes fully once more and working with each of you. Thank you.”
Outgoing Deputy Chairperson, Councillor Harold also thanked members and Council officers for their support over the past year adding, “Thank you to Cllr Devlin who has done a great job in a very challenging year, and I wish my counterparts well in the year that lies ahead. Hopefully there will be no disruption to them in carrying out their duties. I would like to take this time to remember in our prayers those who had suffered, were hospitalised or lost loved ones due to the impact of COVID-19 this past year.”
Other business conducted at the meeting included the appointment of Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons of the Council’s standing committees:
Active and Healthy Communities Committee
Chair – Councillor Karen McKevitt
Vice Chair – Councillor Charlie Casey
Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee
Chair – Councillor Roisin Howell
Vice Chair – Councillor Terry Andrews
Chair – Councillor Kathryn Owen
Vice Chair – Councillor Aoife Finnegan
Chair – Councillor Declan McAteer
Vice Chair – Councillor Cadogan Enright
Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee
Chair – Councillor Oonagh Hanlon
Vice Chair – Councillor Patrick Brown