Newry Mourne and Down Council Elects New Chairs

New Council Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson Elected at Annual General Meeting

Councillor Pete Byrne (SDLP) has been elected Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson at the Council’s Annual General Meeting held on Monday 3 June 2024. Cllr David Lee-Surginor (Alliance) was elected Deputy Chairperson at the meeting.

In his inaugural speech, Cllr Byrne said championing inclusion would play an important part of his year as Chairperson.

“Visibility is vital for so many of us in the LGBT community and for so many young people growing up across our communities today,” he said. “I’m glad that, with the support of my husband here today, I can play my small part in promoting the LGBT community by taking on this role.

“I want to use my voice to make sure your voice is heard, that you feel safe and included within your community. I recognise the struggles you may be going through, as I went through them myself, and at times you feel you are on your own, but I want to assure you, you are not alone.

“Our district is diverse and full of fantastic people doing extraordinary work. Our community, voluntary and charity sectors are the backbone that supports so many marginalised and vulnerable groups across our area, from Saintfield to Culloville.

Cllr David Lee-Surginor (Alliance) has been elected as Newry Mourne and Down District Council Vice Chairperson and Cllr Pete Byrne (SDLP) has been elected as Chairperson.

“As Chairperson, I am committed to working with and supporting those marginalised groups; to reach out to them, educate myself, listen to their stories and speak up with them.”

Cllr Byrne said that as businessman, he wanted to champion trade and investment into our district.

He added: “I am passionate about promoting our area as an integral part of the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor, removing barriers to investment, growing our skills base and strengthening our connectivity by improving our cross-border infrastructure links.

“A better connected, higher skilled corridor allows us to market our district as a globally renowned place to do business.

“As Chairperson, I’m particularly keen to work with local tourism providers to promote our area as a premier tourism destination on this island.

“Developing a regional strategy with our partners in Louth County Council and working to bring Ireland’s Ancient East into Counties Down and Armagh is an opportunity to build on a shared place for all communities where we celebrate and promote our shared history and our rich heritage.

“This is a real driver to reconciliation on our island.”

Cllr Byrne added: “My role in supporting local charities will no doubt develop over the early months, but one which is close to my heart and will be one of my nominated charities this year is Cuan Mhuire.

“The work that they do to help individuals and families across this district struggling with addiction is simply life-saving.”

Cllr Byrne also congratulated outgoing Chairperson Cllr Valerie Harte and Outgoing Deputy Chairperson Cllr Gareth Sharvin for leadership marked with dignity and respect over the past year.

(l-r) incoming: Newry Mourne and Down District Council Deputy Chairperson, Councillor David Lee-Surginor; Chairperson, Councillor Pete Byrne, and outgoing Chairperson Councillor Valerie Harte and outgoing Deputy Chairperson Councillor Gareth Sharvin. 

Newly appointed Deputy Chairperson Cllr David Lee-Surginor said showcasing the district’s tourism product was one of his priorities.

He said, “As Deputy Chairperson of Council, I look forward to this year as we continue to grow and support our tourism sector, showcasing our district and her unmatched natural beauty to our visitors from within the island of Ireland and beyond.

“From Killyleagh, as we near completion of the revitalisation scheme, to the Irish Open, to the majestic mountains of Mourne and the Ring of Gullion.”

Cllr Lee-Surginor also stressed his commitment to local businesses affected by the floods and the voluntary community sector that are facing funding cuts.

He added: “I would like to pay tribute to Valarie Hart as outgoing Chair and Gareth Sharvin as Deputy Chair on their positivity, work ethic and for ensuring that they represented the whole of the district.

Outgoing Chairperson Cllr Valerie Harte thanked members and Council officers for their support over her tenure and welcomed Cllr Byrne and Cllr Lee-Surginor to their new roles.

She said: “Throughout my tenure, I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand the incredible events and initiatives taking place across our district.

“It is clear that there is much to be proud of, and I am confident that with the continued support of our Council, local groups will be able to provide valuable activities, events, and training for years to come.”

Cllr Harte said the devastating floods of the past year were a particular challenge and paid tribute to all who helped assist with the clean-up, while pledging ongoing support.

Cllr Harte added: “As a passionate advocate for disability, being able to raise over £15,000 for five different groups is a moment I will always hold dear.

“These groups, including Down Right Brilliant, Life Changes Changes Lives, Newry All Stars Special Olympic Club, Sound Friends, and Well Lane Warriors, play a crucial role in transforming the lives of individuals and families in our community.”

Outgoing Deputy Chairperson Cllr Gareth Sharvin also commented saying: “It has been an honour to be Deputy Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for the last 12 months.

“A year filled with something different every month starting out in June with welcoming visitors from France to Downpatrick, to launching the Saintfield Horse Show at Downpatrick racecourse and presenting a gift to the now promoted Ipswich football club when they played a pre-season match against Newry. 

“It is not often you get to meet someone that is 100, but I was lucky enough to meeting more than one over my time as Deputy Chairperson and the stories they shared were amazing and will live with me forever.”

Cllr Sharvin added, “Some of the other key stands out was launching the Living High Streets for Downpatrick, signing of the contract for funding for Newry City Park and the Christmas lights switch on at Downpatrick, Newcastle, Ballynahinch and Rostrevor.”

Other business conducted at the meeting included the appointment of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Council’s standing committees:

Active and Healthy Communities Committee

Chair – Councillor Conor Galbraith

Vice Chair – Councillor Aidan Mathers

Economy, Regeneration and Tourism Committee

Chair – Councillor Callum Bowsie

Vice Chair – Councillor William Clarke

Sustainability and Environment Committee

Chair – Councillor Geraldine Kearns

Vice Chair – Councillor Cadogan Enright

Planning Committee

Chair – Councillor Declan Murphy

Vice Chair – Councillor Glyn Hanna

Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee

Chair – Councillor Tierna Howie

Vice Chair – Councillor Cathal King.