A WIFE, a mother, a midwife and now a mayor - councillor Catherine Elattar is very much looking forward to her time in office as Magherafelt District Council chair.
The Draperstown woman was elected by her party colleagues on Tuesday night in what will be the start of a two year reign by Sinn Fein in South Derry.
In her opening speech councillor Elattar, who took the chains of office from the DUP’s Paul McLean, said she felt humbled to be voted into the chair for the next 12 months, and vowed to serve the entire community in the district.
“Being given the trust from the people that elect me is indeed an honour to me as a local public representative,” she said. “Our citizens deserve strong and visible representation on the issues that matter to them and I know that you feel the same as councillor colleagues.
“I am equally humbled that my party, Sinn Féin, has also placed their confidence in me in fulfilling the role as Council chairperson.”
In the 24 months that she has sat on Magherafelt District Council, councillor Elattar has for half of that time served as vice-chair. That role has now been taken on by DUP councillor Anne Forde.
“During my term as vice-chairperson I have had the opportunities to meet many representatives of these groups and am continually amazed at the dedication which they show.
“I know that within this incoming term I will have lots more opportunities for me to further develop relationships with the local community and voluntary sector and that is something which I am dearly looking forward to.”
“I would wish to dedicate my incoming term in office to continuing the good work of council in trying to improve the lives of the people of this district,” added Catherine.
“I am a great believer in the roles and importance of strong voices from our communities.
“I myself come from a background that has always tried to assist those to have a voice and to have the lives of those around us improved upon.
“I see the importance of those many community and voluntary sectoral organisations within the district who are attempting to improve the lives of local communities both socially, economically and environmentally.”
One of the main issues affecting the community will be at the forefront of her role, the councillor said, with particular focus on those more vulnerable in the district.
“Many once well off families now find themselves struggling to make ends meet, to clothe their children, to buy essentials and to basically do some of the things which a few years ago they would not have had a problem in doing,” she said.
“Within council we should be continually striving to improve the lives of people on the margins.
“We need to be doing `our bit` with other statutory service providers to be assisting those young people get on a career path, to assist in re-skilling those out of work and to be signposting others as to where assistances might be given.
“Earlier this year I personally was delighted to be able to introduce the Oil Club`s savings scheme to council where once again community power (assisted by council) identifies significant savings for our citizens. I am looking forward to the rolling out of this scheme shortly.”
The next two years will see a huge change for not only Magherafelt council, but councils around the province as local government reform kicks into place.
The new Mid-Ulster ‘Super Council’ will be a challenge - but a challenge that the new Magherafelt district chair looks forward to relishing.
“With less than a year to go until elections to the new 11 `Shadow Councils` much important work remains to be completed.
“I would want to see this council area using the period ahead for fully preparing for the arrival of the new services and functions that will be coming down to us fromthe Stormont departments.
“I want to see full steam ahead withourselves in Magherafelt working in partnerships with the other two Mid-Ulster councils. Councillor Elattar continued: “Despite what some may believe we need to be speedily progressing on this work to ensure that on day one of the new councils that ratepayers do not have any diminution of services, in fact what they need to see is a modern council that delivers a much wider range of services in an even more responsive manner.”
Councillor Elattar also vowed to work progressively with her deputy councillor Anne Forde, something she says did not happen in her time as deputy to councillor Paul McLean/
“Looking forward to my next twelve months in office I fully recognise both the challenges and opportunities which being council chairperson presents.
“I will treat people from all cultures and backgrounds with the respect that they deserve.
“I will make no difference to my colleague as vice-chairperson, unlike the lack of respect that was shown to me throughout the past year as council vice-chair from the outgoing chairperson.”
Catherine went on: “I want to play my part in bringing about positive change within the district. I hope others will have a change of heart and play their part too.
“There are many positives taking place within the district. My glass is most definitely half full. It is only by working together collectively that we can get the very best out of what is truly a fantastic area.”
Catherine concluded: “Finally I would wish to repeat my gratitude and thanks for those who have supported me in becoming council chairperson.
“I know it will mean additional time away from my family and friends. I know they will be tolerant towards me and support me in my endeavours. I am looking forward to working with John, Anne and all the staff who have been helped me this past year and unfortunately for them they will have to be putting up with me for that little bit longer!”