Reflecting on the many significant achievements of the past year, the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Elisha McCallion particularly highlighted charity projects close to her heart.
She chose the Alzheimer’s Society as her official charity and as well as attending Alzheimer’s fundraisers and events throughout the year, organized a number of hugely successful events for the charity including a Dementia Awareness Tea Dance, a Dementia Memory Walk and a series of events aimed at raising awareness of the illness, during Dementia Awareness Week.
In addition to awareness and fundraising, she said she wanted to reduce the stigma attached to the illness.
“It’s an issue close to my heart and I hope that this will be one of my Mayoral legacies,” she said.
The ongoing refugee crisis in Syria is also high on the agenda and a few months ago she set up a multi-agency group to look at what steps can be put in place to welcome refugees to the city and established an Emergency Refugee Fund.
“The plight of refugees fleeing Syria plucked at my heart strings,” she said.
She said she was also very conscious that there were many people across the Council area who were in need of help and support.
Wishing everyone a happy Christmas season, she said: “It is important that we do all we can to provide help and support to vulnerable people in our communities, particularly at Christmas. There are many out there who are lonely and Christmas is a sad time for them. I would encourage everyone to reach out this Christmas and extend a hand of friendship to vulnerable people.”
Reflecting on other aspects of her work as Mayor, she said: “The Local Government Reform process got underway in April last year and saw the establishment of the new Derry City and Strabane District Council. One of the key elements of our work is to develop the Community Plan and I am delighted that there has been successful engagement across the board on this process. Its vitally important that local people have an input as this Plan will outline our strategic plans for the future and will ultimately see the provision of better services across the Council area.”
One of the projects the Mayor is particularly excited about is the Council’s bid for European Youth Capital status in 2019. This bid was first initiated by the Mayor when she took on then role as Mayor and is keeping with her commitment to deliver a better future for the city’s young people. She is hugely excited about the bid and believes it has the potential to deliver real and positive benefits for the city and region.
“A successful EYC 19 bid will highlight the Council area as one of Europe’s most progressive and enlightened places for young people to live. If we are successful in securing this coveted title it will present us with a fantastic opportunity to showcase our talents. Key to successfully delivering this project is engaging with our local young people and getting them actively involved as champions. Our district has a very young population and we hope to gauge their ideas and vision for the bid, which will ultimately inform the development of youth policies in locations across Europe. “
Looking ahead the Mayor is really looking forward to welcoming a return of the Clipper Round the World fleet to the city in the summer when the city will host the Foyle Maritime Festival from 19-27 July.
“We are over the moon that we are a host port for the 15-16 Clipper Round the World Race and look forward to hosting another magical week of events that will showcase everything that is good about our city - team work, people, pride and celebration. The countdown is on now to July and I just can’t wait to welcome the boats back to our marina for another legenderry experience.”
Acknowledging that a lot of work needs to be done to improve the economy and invest in infrastructure across the city and region, the Mayor said she is committed to working with her colleagues in the Council and the other statutory bodies to provide strong leadership and close partnership arrangements to ensure that Derry and Strabane and indeed the wider North West region gets it share of inward investment, government funding and investment in infrastructure and regeneration.
“My recent visits to the United States where I met with business people, investors and education providers in Boston and Berkeley were hugely successful in terms of making connections and forging positive links that will hopefully bring to fruition some developments and investments for the future. I am really hopeful that we will also forge a formal Sister City arrangement with Berkeley so that we can enjoy the economic, cultural and tourism benefits of such a relationship.”
The Mayor added that she was confident that the future is bright for residents in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.
“With our city and region’s new sense of confidence and achievement we need to continue to increase our business profile, sell our unique tourism offering and history and continue to tell the world our story. Everyone can play their part in this by promoting our city and region wherever we go and to everyone we meet. It’s our city and we are proud of who we are. I sincerely hope that 2016 will bring new opportunities and prosperity so we can continue with the good work that we are doing.”
Extending sincere Christmas greetings to the people of the Council area, the Mayor said she was hopeful the festive period brings joy and celebration to many.
“My Mayoral year has been phenomenal so far, I find it difficult to put into words how warm and friendly people have been to me. I really enjoy meeting with you all and hearing about the wonderful work that you do. I have attended so many fantastic events and functions, particularly community led events. One of my favourite events is the monthly Tea Dances at the Guildhall, they are so much fun and a great way to meet and chat with older people from the community,
“I would like to extend my best wishes to all of you and wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. As Mayor I intend to continue my Mayoral year with your help and support and together we will have a strong united voice to tell the world how fantastic our city and district is.”