Hughes becomes youngest ever Mayor of Newry & Mourne

June 16, 2014

By Christine Keighery

Newry and Mourne selected its youngest ever Mayor last week to serve in the final civic leadership role for Newry and  Mourne District Council ahead of the completion of the merger with Down District Council in April 2015.

At 24, Sinn Féin councillor Dáire Hughes will go down in history as Newry’s youngest Mayor by several decades and he has taken on the chains of office for what he believes to be a significant year for Newry and Mourne Council.

Dáire was co-opted onto the council in January after six Sinn Féin councillors resigned and the Fews councillor narrowly missed out on a seat in last month’s elections by just a handful of votes.

Speaking to The Examiner after the first few days in his new role, the new Mayor said he felt that being the last and youngest Mayor of Newry was “more than just symbolically important.”

“I feel it’s imperative that when this council merges next year that we have left a positive legacy and that having a good year should propel us into the new council structures, where we’re less represented per head of population, with a positive and optimistic outlook” he said.

“I’ll be doing everything I can to make certain I meet as wide a variety of groups and individuals as possible and to ensure that this term leaves a lasting impression on the people of the District.

“There are several flagship projects which I am keen to see delivered in the area such as the Newry Canal Public Realm Scheme, Newry Leisure Centre, Crossmaglen Community Centre and Slieve Gullion Forest Park to name a few.

“I want to work with local community groups, sports clubs and voluntary organisations to ensure that they are fully supported to deliver their full potential for the people of the area.”

Speaking about missing out on a seat in the new administration Daire said,

“Obviously I was massively disappointed not to get a seat when the support was there, but I think that in order to carry out the role of Mayor well, I really need to give it 100%, without any reservation. This is a position of civic significance as opposed to political significance and if I was sitting on the new council it would naturally detract from my mayoral duties, so I’m delighted to be able to fully commit to it.

“There’s no grand scheme at play here for me to get onto the council but if there’s an avenue whereby I can represent the people in the future and the party endorses me to do so then absolutely I would be delighted to eventually have a seat on the new council.  However, I’ll be working just as hard unelected as I would elected , if that’s what happens in the future.”

Commenting on his youth, Councillor Hughes said he believes it will help make local politics more relevant to younger people.

“There’s never been a mayor of this age who could immediately connect with youth groups,” said Daire.

“My first few events as Mayor over the last couple of days have been very much youth oriented.  I’ve met with children at a swimming gala and also in a basketball tournament and I found it’s easy for them to relate to me so I certainly don’t have any reservations about my age being an issue in the role.”

Councillor Hughes also commended Sinn Fein for the “fantastic balance” it has struck with its injection of younger councillors onto the new super council as well as a core of hugely experienced councillors who can guide and develop their younger counterparts.

“Sinn Fein have the most solid foundation to build on for representing the area and build development for the area going forward” he said.

As the current chair of the Louth, Newry, Mourne and Down Memorandum of Public Understanding committee, the incoming Mayor, has shown his commitment to nullifying the negative aspects of the border and he also intends to use his mayoralty to focus on cross border and cross community cooperation;

“I want to do everything I can though the office of the Mayor to ensure that this area develops and progresses and I will create and maintain links with my counterparts in our neighbouring counties to do this.  I will also offer the hand of friendship to all of the people who call Newry & Mourne home and I hope to help create a welcoming environment in our area.”

Looking forward to his significant term of office as Mayor, Councillor Hughes also paid tribute to outgoing Mayor Mickey Ruane describing him as “a wonderful example of what can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.”

Mourne Councillor Brian Quinn (SDLP) has also been confirmed as Deputy Mayor for the coming year.