Councillor Dermot Curran completes successful year as President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association at the AGM held in the Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle.
The longest serving councillor in Northern Ireland, Downpatrick Councillor Dermot Curran, stood down today as outgoing President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), after a successful term in which councils continued to be the only form of functioning elected government here.
Councillor Curran, who represents the Downpatrick DEA on Newry, Mourne and Down Council, has championed local economic development, town centre regeneration and a sustainable fishing fleet through various local and regional campaigns.
His replacement, Councillor Frances Burton, paid tribute to Cllr Curran at her inauguration, which took place today (21 June) at the Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle.
Speaking at the NILGA AGM, Councillor Burton said: “I want to thank Dermot for his service as President of NILGA over the last year. He has been a fantastic champion for local government, and we are all very grateful for the work he has done over the last year.
“Under Dermot and previous presidents, NILGA has brought forward proposals, solutions and consultation responses on matters as complex and important as waste Management, business rates and Brexit. We have done so without any political disagreement. I intend to continue that work dealing with the difficult problems facing Northern Ireland.
“There are exciting opportunities ahead for Northern Ireland, including the two city deals in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, however there are also huge financial challenges ahead. Northern Ireland’s councils have proven that they can meet many such challenges in a dynamic and collegiate way, for example, in clearing the planning backlog since planning was devolved in 2014. But we cannot take on more without additional resources.
“In order to reach our full potential, local government must be provided with greater neighbourhood powers and more funding, to give us the capacity to provide services targeted locally to those who need them most. There must be a full review and strengthening of council powers and in the immediate term, councils in Northern Ireland must be able to access the Brexit Support Fund, like councils across Great Britain, with the same flexibility they have.
“We’re at the beginning of a new mandate facing a difficult, complex, but exciting four years. Northern Ireland has remarkable resources, talented people and incredible potential. Local government has a vital role to play in helping us all to achieve that potential and NILGA will work tirelessly to help ensure we do so.”
Chief Executive of NILGA, Derek McCallan said: “I want to thank Councillor Curran for his service as President of NILGA over the last twelve months. He has shown great leadership and drive in putting local government at the heart of the important debates facing Northern Ireland today. As the longest serving councillor in Northern Ireland, Cllr Curran has shown and continues to show his commitment and dedication to local government. He has not only represented all of his constituents as a local councillor but has also been an important driving force in NILGA at national level.
“Councillor Burton has been elected as President of NILGA today and I am looking forward to working closely with her and the 11 councils at member and officer level in this four-year term.
“I welcome Councillor Burton’s call for Northern Ireland councils to be able to access the Brexit Support Fund in the same way that councils in the rest of the UK are able to. Beyond that, it is also important that a review is carried out to strengthen the powers & finances of local government across Northern Ireland, in view of the continued focus on community planning as the 11 engines of sustainable growth in NI now and for future generations.”
Speaking at the NILGA AGM, Cllr Dermot Curran, outgoing president of NILGA said:“It has been an honour to serve as President of NILGA over the last year. I am proud of how we have sought solutions to difficult problems in a positive and proactive way on matters like Emergency Planning. I am also proud of our work seeking a net alternative investment fund for NI, of some £3.5 billion.
“I am proud of how we brought our ideas to deal with the problems facing Northern Ireland and we presented them, to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley, to Brexit Ministers and to the Irish Government. NILGA has continued to make sure that the voice of local government is heard at the very highest level of decision making.
“In the last year we have seen the agreement for the introduction of two city deals in Belfast and Derry-Londonderry. Local government is at the very heart of these game-changing deals that will revolutionise the Northern Irish economy.
“I have worked closely with all the team at NILGA and I would like to thank them for their efforts over the past year. I leave my role as President in good hands with a talented team and I wish Councillor Burton all the very best.”