Outgoing Mayor reflects on community resilience

SERVING as Mayor at any time is a challenging role let alone in the midst of a global pandemic.

But that's been the case for Michaela Boyle who has seen out the last few months of her tenure during the most unprecedented public health emergency in a lifetime.

As the coronavirus crisis began to escalate in March, the local council was one of the first to move to close all its buildings including theatres, sporting pitches and leisure facilities and cancel a number of high profile events in a bid to halt the spread of the virus - a week before a Northern Ireland-wide lockdown was imposed.

The Mayor's busy public diary was also cleared but as the district's first citizen Michaela Boyle has led from the front during the current crisis.

During a challenging two months she has travelled across the district in support of the many groups and organisations who continue to play a pivotal role in the fightback against COVID-19.

From leading the council's civic response, delivering Public Protective Equipment (PPE), hosting a ministerial visit and supporting fundraisers for NHS and frontline staff - her last weeks as Mayor have arguably never been more busy.

Nominated by her party to serve in the role last June, the Sinn Féin councillor will officially hand over the mayoral chain of office to the incoming Mayor at Derry City and Strabane District Council's annual meeting next Monday night.

Community

Now as she reflects on her final days in office, the Ballycolman native says one of the enduring aspects of her time has been bearing witness to the immense volunteering effort across the city and district that has powered the community response to COVID-19.

It's only fitting then that the week that she hands over the mayoral chain, also marks Volunteers Week - a celebration of efforts of people across the community and voluntary sector.

Praising the remarkable work that is being done by local volunteers, she said: "With only a week left before I hand over the chain-of-office, I wanted to really thank all those who have been working with our community support groups, to ensure the needs of our most vulnerable people are met at this very difficult time.

"Volunteers Week presents us with the opportunity to thank all those who have given so generously of their time – over 860 of you have stepped up to support the response to COVID-19 which is just unbelievable."

The community response to the pandemic has been spirited but the collective efforts of many day and daily in her hometown of Strabane, has come as little surprise to the Mayor.

In a town renowned for its community spirit, Michaela is full of praise for those dedicating their own time and giving vital support to others.

"Strabane has always been community focused and it has been no surprise to me that the people here have rallied when needed – but the level of commitment and kindness has been unprecedented.

"My heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers, of all ages and backgrounds, who have been the absolute backbone of our resilience effort," she added.

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