Christmas Message to the Citizens of Newry, Mourne and Down District
“Since becoming the Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in April, I have had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting some of our district's incredible, and often unsung, individuals, charity, voluntary and community organisations.
At Christmas time especially, it is truly heartening to know that there are so many people within our district who are giving their time and energy to help others and to make where we live a better place.
On December 15, I held a special Spirit of Christmas event to recognise the valuable work of the many individuals who give of their time for their local communities – this was an enjoyable afternoon of celebration, reflection, joy and Christmas cheer held in The Great Hall, Downpatrick – a couple of hours to get us into the Christmas spirit. I would like to thank everyone for making the occasion such a joyful success.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year – offering the chance to catch up with friends, loved ones and our families. For me it is also a time to reflect on what has been a busy year for the district.
In September, I was proud to host the National Famine Commemoration in Newry, the first time ever that this event has come to the north of Ireland. This was a moving and poignant ceremony to remember the millions of men, women and children who died during the An Gorta Mor of 1845.
Prior to that, in June, and on behalf of the Council I welcomed the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Tournament and the international Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia which enabled the Council to showcase our beautiful district as a whole to the rest of the world.
Other events I have hosted and supported have been for a number of charities – Cancer Focus Moonlit Walk, our local Men’s Shed projects, and Breast Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer and Autism Awareness months to name but a few. Closer to my heart has been the recognition and support of the work undertaken by those individuals from this district involved in the Muscular Dystrophy Association, The Declan McMullan Fund and the Kevin Bell Repatriation Fund. And, in the coming months I intend to continue my work with other charities very close to my heart including local branches of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
I have had the honour of working with many businesses from across Newry, Mourne and Down district and have observed them as true entrepreneurs determined to ensure that our region will be recognised as a vibrant and dynamic area driving forward sustainable economic growth. I have been overwhelmed by the commitment of our SME’s working tirelessly to enhance the area in which we live and work to make it a better place for future generations. Indeed some of the highlights of my year so far have been in delivering the Shop Local Initiative which was a concept I initially set out as one of my key areas of work, and in having the privilege of announcing Newry's successful application to become a Business Improvement District. I am hopeful that in the time ahead this model of business excellence and success can be replicated in towns right across our district.
I have been filled with pride during my term as Chairperson, it has been a privilege to visit many areas of the district of Newry, Mourne and Down and meet people of all ages and from different walks of life.
We should all take a step back from our busy lives and enjoy time this festive period with our loved ones. There is nothing more magical than decorated trees, lights, presents, family and friends to brighten up our lives and spending this season with the people you care for makes it even more special.
But it's also important that this period is used to reflect upon the misfortune of others around us. Our neighbours, the elderly, the sick or vulnerable, who perhaps are spending the festive period alone or in hardship. Please do what you can to extend the spirit of Christmas beyond your own home and into the lives of those who may need assistance or kindness shown in the coming weeks.
Remember those on our streets with no home to go to nor family to share Christmas with. And consider the hardships experienced by those refugees arriving shortly in our district who have lost everything and left lives behind them, to come here for the prospect of peace and prosper.
We should also remember with gratitude everyone who will be working over this holiday period, particularly those in our emergency services and hospitals and to them I extend our sincerest wishes for a peaceful and happy festive period.
On behalf of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, I would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year."