Kenyan becomes first black mayor in Northern Ireland

Mayor Lilian Seenoi-Barr,

From left: Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, Nominated Senator Margaret Kamar, Mayor Lilian Seenoi-Barr, her predecessor Patricia Logue, Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina and Narok East MP Aramat Lemanken who attended the swearing-in. 

Photo credit: Pool

A Kenyan woman who made history after being elected councillor in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, was yesterday inaugurated as the first black mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council.

Ms Lilian Seenoi-Barr, who is from Mau Narok in Nakuru County, was voted to represent the Foyleside area of Derry and Strabane Council in Northern Ireland.

During the handing over ceremony ON Monday, June 3, Ms Seenoi-Barr received the mayoral chain in the presence of five Kenyans, including her brother, Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina.

“Originally from Narok, Kenya, Lilian has dedicated her life to championing human rights, social justice, and community cohesion. With a background in social work, community development and social policy, Lilian has been instrumental in fostering integration and understanding among diverse communities in Northern Ireland,” said the introductory notes.

Marginalised groups

It was her work with local organisations focusing on supporting marginalised groups, promoting equality, and enhancing community relations that attracted her to the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

“Her leadership and dedication have earned her widespread respect and admiration, both locally and nationally. Lilian's historic appointment as mayor signifies a significant step forward for Derry and Strabane, reflecting the region's evolving diversity and commitment to inclusivity,” said the briefing.

Senator Ole Kina yesterday wrote a tweet on his X handle, formerly Twitter: “With outgoing Mayor of Derry City Patricia Logue and incoming Mayor Lillian Seenoi-Barr ahead of the official handover happening today at Guildhall, Derry City. Lillian is the first black mayor. It’s a proud moment for Kenya. She comes from Narok.”

Other Kenyans present during the ceremony were Kenya’s Deputy Head of Mission Edwin Afande, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna and Nominated Senator Prof Margaret Kamar.

Mr Sifuna said on X that he did not only attend the inauguration, but also toured some sites.

“A tour of the Museum of Free Derry has evoked terrible memories of our own experiences with police brutality and State sanctioned violence on peaceful protesters. It took over 12 years and millions of dollars for the victims of Bloody Sunday in Derry to be vindicated. Justice comes, eventually,” he wrote.

Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, who was chief guest, congratulated the new mayor for breaking the glass ceiling.

“Today’s installation of Mayor Lilian Seenoi-Barr is the latest in the irrepressible rise by women to high leadership positions not just here in Ireland but globally,” said Mr Kingi, adding it’s clear proof of the gains of democracy.