New Council Chairperson Appointed at Annual General Meeting
Councillor Valerie Harte (Sinn Féin) has been elected Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson at the Council’s Annual General Meeting held on Monday 5 June 2023. Cllr Gareth Sharvin (SDLP) was elected Deputy Chairperson at the meeting.
In her inaugural speech as Chairperson, Cllr Harte said she accepted the nomination for Chairperson with “great honour and pride”. “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve our district in this capacity, and I pledge to work hard for all in the district,” she said. “As the incoming Chairperson, I am excited to represent the Council within the different communities of this district, promoting the numerous tourism and economic opportunities available, whilst attracting much needed investment. Community is at the heart of what I do, and I will ensure that it is reflected during my tenure.
“As a strong advocate for disability, I will mirror this by selecting charities from across the district that provide vital support and outlets for individuals and families of those with disabilities. I believe that everyone deserves equal opportunities and access to resources, and I will work to ensure that this is echoed in all aspects of my work.”
Cllr Harte went on to say that her priorities would include working with statutory bodies and with the community to protect and promote services at Daisy Hill Hospital. “We are all aware of the many challenges that face our district,” she added. “However, I believe that with your support and collaboration, we can improve issues that matter to our citizens, including health, education, employment, community safety, and the environment. Social housing needs remain at a very high level across Newry, Mourne and Down and I will work with our statutory partners to alleviate these high levels.
“We have opportunities to build a better district for workers and families – to deliver on key projects like Newry City Park and to drive economic regeneration to improve our district. There are a multitude of services which we must deliver and many great projects either in the pipeline or on the aspirational list, from Crossgar to Culloville, which we will bring to fruition for the people of this district. We can drive fair regeneration, attract external investment, and boost our tourist potential.
“The people of Newry, Mourne, Down and South Armagh have entrusted all of us with the authority and responsibility to deliver high grade public services.”
Cllr Harte also congratulated outgoing Chairperson Cllr Michael Savage for his leadership over the past year.
Outlining some of his priorities, newly appointed Deputy Chairperson Cllr Gareth Sharvin said, “As I look forward to this year, we as a district have a great opportunity to grow and support our tourism offering, from the shores of Strangford Lough to the mountains of Mourne and the Ring of Gullion, our district has the best to offer across Ireland to our residents and visitors. Our business and voluntary sectors face an ever-challenging landscape with increased costs and funding cuts being handed down.
“As a keen sportsman, both as player in my day and now a volunteer across my clubs, I want to see our Council being ever ambitious in developing the facilities that we as a Council have to offer, but also to support our sports clubs in growing their own. The sports hubs across each District Electoral Areas have the real potential to deliver impact and provide a platform for local people to lead healthy and active lives by improving the quality of our facilities and open spaces.”
Outgoing Chairperson, Cllr Michael Savage thanked members and Council officers for their support over his tenure, welcoming Cllr Harte and Cllr Sharvin to their new roles.
He said, “To say it has been an honour to wear the chain of office as Chairperson of Newry Mourne and Down is an understatement.
“While I put a lot into this year I got so much more out of it, purely through the engagement I had with the men, women and children of our city, towns, villages and hamlets. Our citizens are quite remarkable and as someone who visited almost every corner of our district over the last 12 months, I can say that with confidence. The sense of community, belonging, pride and basic humanity shone through to me like a beacon everywhere I went.”
Outgoing Deputy Chairperson, Cllr Aoife Finnegan also thanked members and Council officers for their support over the past year adding, “Thank you to Chairperson Cllr Savage for the work he has done this year. I would like to wish the incoming Chairperson Cllr Harte and incoming Deputy Chairperson, Cllr Sharvin all the best for the year ahead.”
Other business conducted at the meeting included the appointment of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Council’s standing committees:
Active and Healthy Communities Committee
Chair – Councillor Róisín Howell
Deputy Chair – Councillor Oonagh Magennis
Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee
Chair – Councillor Mickey Ruane
Deputy Chair – Councillor Geraldine Kearns
Chair – Councillor Declan Murphy
Deputy Chair – Councillor Jarlath Tinnelly
Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee
Chair – Councillor Leeanne McEvoy
Deputy Chair – Councillor Cadogan Enright
Sustainability and Environment Committee
Chair – Councillor Terry Andrews
Deputy Chair – Councillor Willie Clarke