Sinn Fein Councillor Michaela Boyle accepted the Mayoral chain from her predecessor the SDLP’s Cllr John Boyle at the Council’s Annual meeting in the Guildhall.
The new Mayor, who will be supported in her role by the SDLP’s Cllr Cara Hunter who takes up the position of Deputy Mayor, said she was deeply honoured to represent the city and district and vowed to represent everyone, highlighting that campaigning for jobs and investment for the North West would be her key priority during her Mayoral year.
Outgoing Mayor, Cllr John Boyle handing over the Mayoral chain reflected on his busy year and extended his thanks to the people of Derry and Strabane for their friendship and hospitality over the past year. He extended his best wishes and good luck to the new incoming Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
Newly elected Mayor, Cllr Michaela Boyle said she was deeply honoured at being chosen as Mayor and promised to engage with all the people of the Council area to send out a clear message that as Mayor she will promote “inclusivity and provide civic leadership.”
She said: “I will support communities the length and breadth of this Council area.
“From the Ballycolman to the Bogside, from Newtonstewart to Newbuildings, from Cranagh to Creggan and from Glebe to Galliagh, stretching from the Derg ward down to Derry City, I will stand up and promote this area to the best of my ability and promote equality and inclusive, respectful politics.”
The number one key objective set out by the new Mayor for her year ahead, is the commitment to work towards the promotion of the North West region to attract jobs, infrastructure and investment and to maximise the economic potential of the region.
“We need to build on the foundations of existing collaborations in health, education and infrastructure.
“One of the key projects, which is an essential lifeline for addressing the infrastructural deficit west of the Bann and for reinforcing connections is the A5 road project.
“We need to ensure that key projects such as the A5, the expansion of the Magee campus, the medical school, the Riverine Project, the A6 road and others are delivered in order to open up the entire north-west region and bring the benefits on an all-island basis.”
She added that she will be putting pressure on the Irish Government to step up to the plate in tackling the longstanding regional imbalances.
“The recent announcement of £105m funding by the British Government is a first step, but more must be done.
“In working closely as a team with our MP, MEP, MLAs and this Council team it will be my priority to develop and transform this North West region and work with key stakeholders to deliver upon the Strategic Growth Deal and secure additional financial assistance from both governments and the EU.
The Strabane born Mayor said she was also committed to working proactively to promote positive mental health and pledged to do more to stamp out the stigma around mental health.
“Mental health affects everyone in society, particularly here in the north, mental illness is the largest single cause of ill health. It’s time to end the stigma and silence.
“I have decided this year to split the Mayors charity 50/50 with one half of it going to the Koram Centre in Strabane which offers invaluable Counselling, psychotherapy and psychosocial support to those suffering.”
Mayor Boyle said being a strong voice for women and working to empower females was also one of her key objectives during her Mayoral term of office.
She commented: “This Council has already carried out some excellent work relating to women’s rights & should be proud to have been the first council in the north to tackle period poverty.
“No group in our society will be untouched by Brexit but women from border communities like ours will be among those most disproportionately impacted in terms of gender equality, employment legislation, children’s rights, family disputes, domestic violence, access to healthcare and the possible implications of a Brexit border.
“Everyone in a leadership role, in politics, business, academia and civic society, has a responsibility to address gender equality and reduce barriers to participation by women. As Mayor I can give my full guarantee that I will push this at every given opportunity.”Speaking out against domestic violence, the new Mayor said that Foyle Women’s Aid was the other charity selected as her chosen Mayoral charity.
She said: “Domestic violence is a subject close to my heart having lost someone to this horrendous crime.
“While in the Assembly I served as spokesperson for my party on Domestic Violence & sat on various All Party groups including the Women’s Caucas.”
Extending a special thanks to her husband, daughters, grandchildren and extended family for all their help and support, Mayor Boyle said she looked forward to working with all elected members and Council officers to serve and promote a society which is tolerant and inclusive of race, colour, class, creed, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Referencing the recent killing of journalist Lyra McKee, the Mayor said it was important the new Council team going forward must remain resolute in their opposition to the pointless actions of the people who claimed her life.
“We must show strong leadership in our roles and must not let Lyra’s death be in vain.
“We are the people who must play a key role in making things better,” she added.