Mayor McHugh reflects on a year packed with highlights
01 June 2018
When I hand over the chain of office to my successor at next Monday’s Council AGM at the Guildhall it will mark the end of an eventful but thoroughly rewarding year for me as Mayor of this City and District.
While the role has been demanding and often exhausting it has been a genuine privilege to serve as First Citizen of Derry and Strabane.
I am now looking forward to taking a short break which will give me an opportunity to reflect on a year that was packed with highlights.
The position of Mayor afforded me the honour of representing our area at national and even international events this year but for me the most rewarding aspect of the role was meeting local people, hearing their stories and learning more about what is important to them.
There is so much positive work being carried out by groups and individuals across this Council area and I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to get out into the community and see that work at first hand.
When I was chosen by my party colleagues to serve as their nominee for Mayor I said that one of my main priorities was the promotion of our native language.
At every event I attended I addressed those gathered through Irish first to emphasise to people that it is there for everyone to share and above politics and I was delighted how many people came up to me afterwards to speak in Irish.
From a personal perspective I was pleased that I was able to play a small part in raising the profile and funds for my chosen Charity AWARE who do crucial work locally in providing support and guidance for people suffering from depression.
I’d like to thank everyone who supported my Charity Events which included a Family Fun Day at the Foyle Arena, a Mood Walk for all the schools in the Council area during Young People Mental Health Week and this week’s Mayor’s Charity Ball.
In my former role as the Job Skills and Essential Skills Co-ordinator at the North West Regional College I became acutely aware of the issues that affect our young people, I therefore appreciated the opportunity this year to visit schools and colleges throughout the Council area to listen to their needs and consider what we as a Council can do to support them.
Similarly, I was delighted to demonstrate my support for young people through my Game On initiative which engaged with young people in Castlederg, Sion Mills, Ballyarnett, Rosemount and St Columb’s Park.
The scheme offered them an informal space to socialise, access hot drinks and have access to computers and gaming on the Off the Streets bus and will assist Council in designing a bespoke programme of activity for them.
The office offered daily opportunities to meet with the children of the City and District and it was refreshing to experience their unconditional acceptance of the Mayoral position.
On the older end of the age spectrum my Tea Dances were also an excellent way to reach out to the public and created an opportunity for people from different communities to congregate together and enjoy each other’s company.
I’d like to thank everyone who attended the Tea Dances and especially those who took up my offer of a dance!
Council’s outward looking strategy of tapping into trade, investment and educational opportunities throughout the world afforded me the honour of leading a delegation to Dalian in China earlier this month while before Christmas I had the opportunity to take part in the successful cross border mission to Philadelphia and Boston.
On both those trips I was struck by the effective joined up approach of our educational institutions, SMEs and public sector bodies in pitching our region as an attractive place to invest in and do business with.
The profile of our area is growing globally, there is visible evidence of that in the increased numbers of tourists coming into the City and District and this year I welcomed tourists and special guests from all over the world into the Mayor’s parlour.
Over the 12 months I also met with civic and church leaders from all denominations which was a particular privilege.
The office afforded me the opportunity to honour and recognise some of our sons and daughters who have left this area and enjoyed success on the world stage with receptions in the Mayor’s Parlour for VIPs such as songwriter and producer Johnny McDaid, Ireland footballer James McClean and of course the cast and writer of the comedy hit series of the year Derry Girls.
I was struck in those receptions not only by the significant success our young people have achieved in a wide range of fields but also how important it was for them personally to remember where they grew up and to be recognised in their home place.
I would like to thank all the staff at the Council, especially the Mayor’s Office for their professionalism and attention to detail this year.
There is strong work taking place on the ground at Council to improve services and efficiencies through the Strategic Growth Plan that clearly defines our ambitions and targets for the years ahead.
I believe it can improve the quality of life for all our citizens as it works to address unemployment and improve our area socially, economically and environmentally.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish my successor well as we continue the journey towards fulfilling our region’s undoubted potential.
I have made memories this year that will last a lifetime and I genuinely feel the Derry City and Strabane District is moving in the right direction despite the challenges that lie ahead.
My immediate priority now is to spend time with my wife Geraldine and family who have shown great patience and support during the demands of this year and I look forward to continuing to serve the public, and particularly the Derg ward, as a Councillor.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh.