Londonderry’s first female Mayor, Marlene Jefferson, who died earlier today, Monday, has been described by UUP Party Leader, Mike Nesbitt as “someone who embodied the finest traditions of Ulster Unionism”.
In his tribute to Ms Jefferson, the Party Leader particularly noted how Ms Jefferson was skilled in reaching out to other communities: “At a time when the communities were polarised, she was quick to reach out the hand of friendship and work with political colleagues from the nationalist tradition. The esteem in which she was held was evident in 1980 when she was elected as the first ever female Lord Mayor of Londonderry.
“Her term of office coincided with a particularly difficult year for both her city and Northern Ireland but she was determined to play her part in working with groups and individuals from throughout the city in order to try to improve the quality of life for everyone. Long after her term of office ended she continued to be a force for good and she will be greatly missed by her family and many friends from throughout the Maiden City and far beyond.”
Locally, Ms Jefferson was remembered with extreme fondness by UUP Alderman Mary Hamilton, who described her as “a shining example” to women and to all those involved in local government.
“On behalf of the UUP Association in the city, I just want to say that we appreciate all the wonderful work Marlene did in this city,” said Mrs Hamilton.
“She was a great ambassador for the city and I offer my sincere sympathy to her family.”
Members of the DUP in Londonderry also expressed their sympathy.
DUP Spokesperson Councillor Hilary McClintock said: “Mrs Jefferson was a well-known and much loved figure. My Memories of Mrs Jefferson go back to when she lived in Ferguson Lane and her days of running the family shop in Hawkin Street with her husband Jim until she entered civic life. She contributed much to the life of the city and was honoured to become the first female mayor of Londonderry.
“Marilyn kept herself very active and took part in many community education projects up until recent times. Our sympathies are very much with her family and close friends at this sad time.”
The Verger at St Columb’s Cathedral also paid tribute to Ms Jefferson, particularly noting her skills at cross-community work.
“She was awarded the Church’s highest Lay award, the Archbishops medal of honour,” said Mr Glenn.
“Marlene was a woman who always got her point over without causing controversy. May she rest in peace and rise in Glory.”