Sinn Fein’s Mason appointed first citizen

Sinn Fein’s Mason appointed first citizen

9 June 2021

SINN FEIN councillors have been appointed to the top two positions on Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

Slive Croob councillor Cathy Mason was appointed the district’s first citizen at the local authority’s annual meeting last week, with Slieve Gullion councillor Oonagh Magennis confirmed as her deputy.

Elected in 2019, Cllr Mason (32) was recently confirmed as one of her party’s two candidates for the forthcoming South Down Assembly elections — scheduled for next May — and faces a particularly busy 12 months ahead.

During her inaugural address at the annual meeting, Cllr Mason said it was her “honour and privilege” to be chosen as council chairwoman to lead the organisation in what is a difficult period.

She said she looks forward to working with all councillors, officers and community organisations and agencies to continue building back from Covid-19 and to mitigate the effects of Brexit. 

“There is no doubt that the past year has been tough for our businesses, families, sports clubs, community and voluntary groups,” continued Cllr Mason.

“Each of us has been impacted over the past year and the next 12 months will be about Covid-19 recovery, investing in local economy, protecting and attracting jobs, delivering a better deal for workers and families, building much more affordable homes, ensuring the impact of Brexit is mitigated as much as possible and that we have sustainable infrastructure to enjoy the natural world around us.”

The council chairwoman said the impact of Covid has also had a huge impact on social and personal well-being, warning the the pre-pandemic crisis in mental health and wellbeing has “only worsened and widened persistent health inequalities”, highlighting the need for local fit-for-purpose health services are greater than ever. 

“The people of Newry, Mourne and Down need hope,” declared Cllr Mason. “They need a council that can deliver for them and a district they can be proud of.

“The pandemic has been extremely tough for many of our businesses, workers, staff and wider economy. Many of our favourite shops, cafes, bars and restaurants have faced real and enduring financial hardship. 

“It is imperative that that the council continues to support and invest in our economy and one of the themes of my year in office will be protecting existing jobs, creating new ones and delivering a better deal for workers and families.”

Cllr Mason said the Covid pandemic has reinforced the need to look again at people’s work life balance and to spend more time in the natural world around us. 

She continued: “Across Newry, Mourne and Down, we are spoilt for some of the most beautiful landscapes and natural heritage anywhere in Ireland. But we need to invest much more in sustainable community infrastructure so we can access and enjoy the environment around us whilst protecting it for future generations. 

“Another priority for me in the year ahead will be the delivery of innovative outdoor facilities in order to build a stronger, healthier community. Next year, I want to help the district build back better from where we left off, not just economically, but socially, personally, and sustainably.”

Cllr Mason also thanked the departing chairwoman and vice-chairwoman for “dispatching their responsibilities with great professionalism and humanity throughout extremely challenging times for the district in the past year.

Newly appointed vice-chairwoman, Cllr Oonagh Magennis said it was a great honour for her to accept her party’s nomination for the role.

“As councillors, we have grown together over the past 12 months in what has been an unprecedented year,” she said.

“Everyone rose to the challenge and the most significant lesson for us all is the importance of community. Community is the heart and soul of this district and Cathy and I will endeavour to reach out to those communities to help and support them as best we can.”

Cllr Mason was proposed for the post of council chairwoman by the Sinn Fein group’s council leader, Bara Ó Muirí.