Councillor Laura Devlin (SDLP) has been elected Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson at the Council’s sixth Annual General Meeting held on Monday 1 June 2020.
The Council AGM was held virtually on Skype with councillors, officials and press logged on to the meeting that saw Cllr Laura Devlin assume the role of chairperson and Cllr Harold McKee (UUP) being elected Deputy Chairperson.
In her first speech as Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin acknowledged the unique challenges of her year in office amidst the global fight against COVID-19. She said: “Our response to the pandemic has been a testament to the warm, generous and compassionate spirit that exists throughout our entire community – this spirit which is found in the local football club, the volunteer in the food-bank or simply an individual who is looking out for their neighbour.
” This spirit is found in our healthcare workers, teachers, our tireless Council staff and so many more.
“As a unified Council let our message to our constituents be imbued with that same spirit – we stand with you and we are proud to so. We will not abandon our businesses that have contributed for so many years to the common good of our district.
“Together, we have braved the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and the time has come to begin the process of unlocking our district.
“The time has come to unlock the hospitality potential of our district which has never been challenged more than it is at present. Whilst we continue to be and must always be guided by science, we need to prepare for tomorrow. International travel for many will be ruled out so let us now focus on unlocking our district as the staycation destination in Ireland.
“It is also a time to unlock the potential of our local retailers. Throughout this pandemic they have provided so much for so many of us and we must support our local tourism providers, food and drink producers, local restaurants and bars and to shop in locally owned retail stores.
“At present many of them fear that they cannot weather the current storm. Let me assure you now, we stand with you. We are here for you.”
Councillor Devlin also paid tribute to the work of outgoing chairperson Councillor Charlie Casey and outgoing Deputy Chairperson Councillor Terry Andrews, and said she looked forwarded to working with Councillor Harold McKee as Deputy Chairperson.
Newly appointed Deputy Chairperson Councillor Harold McKee offered his congratulations to Councillor Devlin.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing Chairperson Councillor Charlie Casey and Deputy Chairperson Councillor Andrews for all their hard work, dedication and professionalism in carrying out their roles,” he said. “My position as Deputy Chairperson will look very different compared to previous years due to the current situation, however I am willing to embrace the challenge and look forward to working with all Elected Members across the district.”
“Due to the current pandemic we find ourselves in, all of my fundraising events had to be cancelled. However, due to sponsorship from Re-Gen Waste Ltd and other donations I was able to present my three chosen charities, Autism Families, Birthwise and Cuan Mhuire, with cheques for £2,500. Each were chosen with the family theme in mind.”
Outgoing Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey thanked members and Council officers for their support over the past year, “My year in office has been hugely rewarding and sometimes challenging. I have travelled the length and breadth of the district from Cullaville to Saintfield.
“I have visited and hosted scores of schools, community associations, voluntary groups and individuals and it has been an absolute privilege to see the work carried out across the district, especially by the community and voluntary sector.
The outgoing Deputy Chairperson, Councillor Terry Andrews said, “It has been a privilege to work alongside Councillor Casey and serve the district. I thank the Chairperson for his hard work and the manner in which he carried out his duties. I also thank the Chief Executive, Marie Ward and Council officers for all their help during my year in office.”
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 – Cllr Leeanne McEvoy
Vice Chair – Cllr Gerry O’Hare
Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee
Chair – Cllr Andrew McMurray
Vice Chair – Cllr Michael Ruane
Chair – Cllr Oonagh Magennis
Vice Chair – Cllr Terry Andrews
Chair – Cllr Robert Burgess
Vice Chair – Cllr Jarlath Tinnelly
Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee
Chair – Cllr Gareth Sharvin
Vice Chair – Cllr Oonagh Hanlon