Ledama’s Sister Makes History as First Black Mayor of City in Ireland

April 30, 2024

Lilian Seenoi Barr, a Kenyan woman, has made history as the first black mayor in Northern Irish history.

Councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr, elected to Derry City and Strabane Council last year by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), has been chosen to serve as the council’s next Mayor.

The appointment was confirmed by Seenoi Barr’s brother, Narok Senator Ledama Olekina, who celebrated the historic achievement on social media.

“Please join me in congratulating my baby sister  Councillor  Lilian Seenoi for being elected as the first black – Maasai Mayor of the City of Derry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom,” Ole Kina wrote.

However, details of the selection process, as reported by the BBC, revealed controversy surrounding Seenoi-Barr’s appointment to lead the city. UK media outlets reported opposition from some councillors, leading to the resignation of one councillor from the party.

Nonetheless, Seenoi defended her selection, asserting that the process was open, free, and fair.

“I put my name forward, there was an open process, and I was selected after a very robust interview that all three candidates went through,” she stated.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood expressed confidence in Seenoi’s ability to represent the party effectively in her new role. He highlighted Seenoi’s active involvement in various positive initiatives in Derry City, particularly in assisting migrants to adjust to life in their new home.

“Having initially come to Derry as a refugee facing an uncertain future, I can now truly say that my family has found their home. I am proud to be a Maasai woman and a Derry girl,” Seenoi said after clinching the seat.

Former US President Bill Clinton speaking with Derry and Strabane District Councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr

During her time in Kenya, Seenoi advocated for the rights of Maasai women and girls, campaigning against female genital mutilation and early marriages. She will succeed Sinn Féin’s Patricia Logue as the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane Council.

“The significance of my appointment as Mayor is not lost on me, and I will work for every single person in this city regardless of their religion, ethnicity or background. These are the values I have carried with me since getting involved in politics and are reflected in the ethos of my party,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to working with my party, my SDLP council colleagues and everyone on the council in my upcoming year as Mayor. I’m incredibly excited to get started and to get out meeting people and visiting the many fantastic organisations throughout our city. I will use this year to celebrate our successes and shine a spotlight on the issues impacting far too many families here. I hope that I will also be able to inspire others and show what’s possible in a great city like ours.”

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