SDLP’s Mark Murnin is new council chairman

SDLP’s Mark Murnin is new council chairman

6 June 2018

THE SDLP’s Mark Murnin is the new chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

The Slieve Croob politician’s appointment was confirmed at the local authority’s annual meeting on Monday night when he succeeded Sinn Fein’s Roisin Mulgrew as the district’s first citizen.

The new council vice-chairwoman is Sinn Fein’s Oksana McMahon, originally from Ukraine, who represents the Crotlieve area.

Cllr Murnin was presented with his chain of office by his predecessor, with his proud parents, Sean and Eilish, and wife Michelle looking on from the public gallery.

The new chairman said he was “proud” to hold the position of first citizen and insisted he will be a chairman for everyone across the district, admitting he was thinking about his late grandfather Eddie Murnin, who was election agent for the late councillor Dan Rice.

“My grandfather would have been extremely proud tonight and I want to thank my family for their support in the past and acceptance that this new role will change our lives for the next 12 months,” said Cllr Murnin.

“I want to thank my party colleagues for having the faith and trust in me to carry out this role, all those who elected me and former Down councillors Anne McAleenan and Patsy Toman, who assisted me so much in my election campaign.”

Looking to the year ahead, the new chairman said his focus would be on children “as they offer so much for the future” and the district’s business community as Brexit draws ever closer.

He continued:  “We need to show children the benefits of active lifestyles, eating well, looking after the environment, developing friendships and skills that they will pass up the chain, encouraging their parents to engage in the same habits.

“This will lead to less demands on our health centres and more productive, balanced citizens. Of course we can’t put all this responsibility on our children, we also need to promote healthy lifestyles to our adults and to this end I would like to see walking city or towns developed.

“In the 1990s, Queen’s University produced a plan to connect all the housing areas within Ballynahinch with minimal interaction with cars. Today, this has still not been realised, missing an opportunity to link communities and increase physical exercise and social wellbeing.”

Cllr Murnin said that with so many village plans requesting walking trails and the opening of rights of way, the council needed to bring walking routes to towns across the district. He also wants to reach out to local communities to “help everyone feel as one,” suggesting that three years after the council was launched, this has not yet been achieved.

“I would like to reach out to 

each district electoral area and arrange coffee with the respective chairs as a means of being able to communicate with the council, whether positive or not, to learn what is available or needed in each area,” he continued.

“As a starter to link the district, I would like to see a Newry, Mourne and Down football tournament to include the best teams from each district electoral area play each other with a final at Newry City’s Irish Premier League ground, with an opportunity to generate funds for the clubs.”

Cllr Murnin said he was keen to follow the lead adopted by his predecessor in promoting organ donation and would be requesting that all invitations sent on his behalf will feature the organ donation logo to encourage uptake.

He said he also recognised the contribution made to the district by many local businesses, highlighting the need to provide “clarity and certainty” to those who trade with the rest of Ireland and Europe. 

“In the absence of government, it is for this council to continue to ensure there is no change to the current border arrangements.

“I will make myself available to as many local businesses as possible to offer support and promotion of their products and would like to see a business directory set up and a promotion campaign to encourage businesses and indeed council to do business within the district.”

He added: “I would again reiterate my pride in taking up this post and give an assurance that I am a chairperson for all in the district.”