My first six months as Mayor have been truly inspiring as I have had the honour of representing the people of Derry~Londonderry at events and initiatives across the city and beyond.
Christmas is a very special and important time of year for all of us and like most people I will be taking some time out to relax and enjoy precious time with my family and friends.
I am conscious however that Christmas can be a difficult time for many and my heart goes out to those of you who are suffering as a result of bereavement or who are experiencing financial and emotional hardship.
I sincerely hope you avail of support and assistance and find the strength to see you through the festive season.
I would urge all of us to do what we can to help others over this festive period – even if it’s just to donate a toy to one of the many local toy appeals, add a few extra items to your food shop and donate to the Food Bank or simply check in on your elderly neighbour or friend - we can all make a difference this Christmas.
Looking back on 2014, it was a significant year in many ways. We celebrated the success of City of Culture and put into place our legacy programme for Music City.
We recognized the benefits that City of Culture brought us and successfully worked in partnership with stakeholders to ensure that momentum is continued for generations to come.
I am delighted that the excitement and energy continues to exist in our city and our new found confidence has allowed us to continue to support our creative economy and work to promote cultural tourism and create a sustainable cultural environment.
Music City 2014 was fantastic in getting people involved and in building on the successes of 2013.
The return of such high profile and successful events as the Choral Festival, the Walled City Tattoo, the Legenderry Food Festival, Walled City Marathon, Music City and the Pan Celtic Festival, to name but a few, was a significant part of our legacy promise.
The MTV Crashes weekend was a hugely successful event with international artists such as Professor Green performing live from Ebrington to thousands of our music fans.
Our first ever Fashion Fest was another phenomenal success and plans are already afoot to roll it out next year.
Our regular events such as the Jazz Festival and Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival were the most successful ever – so we continue to achieve on all fronts.
One of the highlights of my Mayoral year to date was the Legenderry Maritime Festival and the arrival and departure of the Clipper Round the World yachts to the city.
It was a magical week that showcased everything that is good about our city – team work, people, pride and celebration.
The countdown is on now to 2016 when we once again will welcome the boats back to our marina for another legenderry experience. Just last week I had the pleasure of being involved in the Derry Charity Calendar 2015, a project that has been set up to raise money for local charities in the city in the style of the classic ‘Calendar Girls’ Calendar.
There is no doubt that our city and region continues to have its problems.
Our economy is in difficulty and there are many out there who have no job and are struggling to pay their bills and feed their families.
We are facing tough times ahead with planned budgetary cuts and continued austerity.
Like all cities across Ireland and the UK we are feeling the pinch of cutbacks, unemployment and job insecurity but I remain hopeful that we can get through it.
With strong leadership and continued partnership we can work to ensure that Derry and the North West region gets it share of inward investment, government funding and investment in infrastructure and regeneration.
With our city’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 2015 will bring new opportunities and prosperity so we can continue with the good work that we are doing.
I would like to extend sincere Christmas greetings to the people of Derry~Londonderry and beyond.
I hope the festive period brings joy and celebration to you all. 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 have really enjoyed meeting people at all of the functions I have attended and in particular at the many community events and the monthly Mayoral tea dances.
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.
2015 will mark the end of an era as Derry City Council comes to an end at the end of March when it joins up with our neighbours in Strabane to form the new Derry City and Strabane District Council.
We hope that we will have a strong united voice to represent the public and continue to provide quality services.