History made in Northern Ireland as LGBTQ+ and Black councillors assume top roles

Lilian Seenoi-Barr, Micky Murray and Pete Byrne have all made history in Northern Ireland as they assume new council roles.

A split screen of three councillors in Northern Ireland. Left is Lilian Seenoi-Barr, middle is Micky Murray and right is Pete Byrne.
Image: (Left to right) @mayordcsdc / @micky_murray / @peterbyrnejnr via X

On Monday, June 3, history was made in Northern Ireland as LGBTQ+ and Black councillors assumed top positions in their local offices. Lilian Seenoi-Barr became the state’s first-ever Black mayor, while Micky Murray was installed as the first out gay mayor of Belfast, and Pete Byrne became the first openly LGBTQ+ Chairperson of the Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)’s Lilian Seenoi-Barr made history last year when she became the first Black person elected to public office in Northern Ireland. A proud “Maasai woman and Derry girl”, she will now assume the First Citizen role of Derry City and Strabane District Council, taking over from her predecessor Patricia Logue. Seenoi-Barr will be supported by Ulster Unionist Party councillor Darren Guy, who was nominated as Deputy Mayor.

A delegation of leaders from Kenya attended the AGM in support of Seenoi-Barr. This included representatives of the Senate, the National Assembly, Governors, and the Kenyan Ambassador to the UK.

Speaking after the fact, Seenoi-Barr vowed to “lead with ambition to drive real change, ensuring that all voices within our vibrant community are heard and represented.”

She added that her year as mayor would focus on “unity, growth and the common good,” pledging to work towards ending poverty, attracting investment and supporting young people to achieve their full potential. She also wants to create jobs, advocate for affordable housing, deliver play parks for children and address environmental issues.


Elsewhere, Micky Murray was installed as the Lord Mayor of Belfast, taking over from outgoing first citizen, Sinn Féin’s Ryan Murphy. The Alliance councillor, who has served the Balmoral area since May 2022, stated upon assuming the role: “As the city’s first openly gay Lord Mayor, I want Belfast to be a place where everyone feels welcomed and included.”

He continued: “A more inclusive, diverse and kinder city makes it better for everyone.”


The next of the councillors to make history in Northern Ireland was SDLP’s Pete Byrne, who has become the first publicly LGBTQ+ Chairperson of the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. 

“There are few better feelings than being selected to serve as the first citizen of a place that is so close to my heart,” he said following the news.

“I am proud of this place and its people, we have seen much adversity over the years but we always come out stronger, supporting each other along the way.

“As Chair I am looking forward to visiting every part of our council area and working on behalf of every community. Our council area is rapidly changing, becoming an important link between the North and South of our island and I believe that creates immense opportunities for growth and investment.

“I am determined to be a champion for inclusion and the most vulnerable in our society and will use my platform and voice to shout as loud as possible about everything Newry, Mourne and Down has to offer,” he concluded.


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