SDLP set to co-opt Black Lives Matter activist Lilian Seenoi-Barr on council
Lilian Seenoi-Barr, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, is expected to be co-opted by the SDLP into Derry City and Strabane District Council.
e Director of Operations for the North West Migrants’ Forum, she is one of two people who nominated their names for co-optation of the board. A decision is expected next week.
A vacancy arose in Foyleside when Councilor Mary Durkan announced she was stepping down. Ms Seenoi-Barr, who sits on the New Ireland Commission of the SDLP, narrowly missed her election in 2019.
She subsequently proposed her name for a vacant position in Waterside, but was unsuccessful. She is a past president of the SDLP Derry and Strabane.
Insiders described her as a hard-working party worker and high-level activist who had experience in solving problems often championed by People Before Profit in the city.
Ms Seenoi-Barr arrived in Northern Ireland from Kenya as an asylum seeker in December 2010. She is from the Maasai minority tribe.
She campaigned for the rights of Maasai women and girls, including the eradication of female genital mutilation and early forced marriage, and for access to free primary education for disadvantaged communities.
She funded the North West Migrants’ Forum in 2012 to help others after experiencing the isolation of many migrants and asylum seekers.
The resignation of Mary Durkan – sister of Foyle SDLP MP Mark H Durkan and niece of former party leader and former MP Mark Durkan – has shocked her colleagues. She was elected just two years ago.
In a social media post, the lawyer said she made the decision after some soul-searching.
“I concluded that, given the limits of the party structures, my contribution would be more effectively made outside the council,” she added.
Meanwhile, two local councilors have reportedly proposed their names for the SDLP nomination of South Down Stormont.
Former MP Karen McKevitt and South Down Party candidate for the 2019 Westminster election, Michael Savage, are in the running.
The post became vacant after MP Sinead Bradley announced she was stepping down from frontline politics.
Those backing Mr Savage said he had strong local support and surprised many by approaching 1,500 votes from Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard two years ago.
Ms McKevitt was an MP for South Down from 2011-2016, but was not re-elected when she was transferred to Newry and Armagh.
Sources said it was unlikely that Castlewellan’s People’s Councilor Laura Devlin would seek the nomination.
She works for the party’s second MP in the riding, Colin McGrath, and will focus on her election campaign.
Mr. Savage paid tribute to Ms. Bradley’s contribution during her five years as an MP. “Sinead has represented this constituency with integrity, compassion, commitment and hard work, and it represents a great loss to the Assembly benches,” he said.
Ms Bradley, whose father represented the constituency, said she had made a “personal choice” to step down.