COAST Road councillor Gerardine Mulvenna has been elected mayor of Larne, with the endorsement of her peers as a politician who demonstrates unwavering commitment to the community and a determination to see projects through to conclusion.
The Alliance representative, who has served two terms as deputy mayor since she was elected to the council in 2001, was the unanimous choice to succeed DUP councillor Bobby McKee at the end of his fifth term as first citizen.
The aldermen and councillors attending the annual meeting at Smiley Buildings on Monday evening also nominated Ulster Unionist councillor Mark McKinty as deputy mayor, just over a year after he was first elected on to the local authority. He succeeds Alliance councillor Michael Lynch in the post.
The top positions were agreed by parties at an induction session in the Burrendale Hotel shortly after the May, 2011 election. The pact, now known as the Newcastle Agreement, means the mayor’s chain should pass next year to the SDLP’s sole representative on the council, Martin Wilson. He will be followed by an Ulster Unionist who is likely to be the last mayor of Larne, as at the end of the current four-year term the reform of public administration (RPA) is scheduled to begin and a new shadow council formed to represent the boroughs of Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena, ahead of an election.
The outgoing mayor was commended for his dedication to duty despite what he described as “a very difficult year for me, physically” and in reviewing his term, Cllr McKee said he was particularly grateful to his wife, Betty, and Cllr Lynch, for their unstinting support.
Cllr McKee reflected on “a year of celebration” which culminated with the recent Diamond Jubilee events and the passage of the Olympic torch through the borough. He referred also to ongoing council capital projects including the regeneration of Glenarm, the soon-to-be-completed refurbishment of the town hall and the Gobbins project, which was “approaching an exciting stage”.
After she was installed as mayor, Cllr Mulvenna admitted to being “very emotional” and spoke of the “enormous privilege” the council had bestowed on her. Referring to her predecessor, she said she had “big boots to fill” but looked forward to the next 12 months.
Cllr Mulvenna added: “It will be a great time to be in office, with the refurbishment of the town hall about to be complete and several other upcoming events.
“The recent celebrations in Larne for the Jubilee and the Olympic torch relay helped to showcase the amazing community spirit that we have in this borough and I hope to build on what is clearly one of our best assets. It never ceases to amaze me the tireless voluntary work that goes on right across the borough. No matter how much funding you receive, you couldn’t pay for that.”
Cllr Mulvenna spoke of challenges facing the council, including RPA and the economy. She told colleagues: “I can assure you that I will do my best to work with the chief executive, with yourselves, and with the community to promote Larne as the best place to live, as well as for businesses to invest in.”
Former Alliance mayor Cllr John Mathews, who proposed Cllr Mulvenna for the top post, said it was a “very great pleasure” to do so, while veteran Ulster Unionist councillor Roy Beggs told her: “Those of us who have served with you over the years realise that you give wholehearted commitment to everything that you undertake ... there is no stopping you”.