Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon: youngest-ever female Lord Mayor appointed

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ABC Council’s youngest ever female Lord Mayor was appointed at Monday night’s (June 3) annual general meeting of the local authority.

Cllr Sarah Duffy (Sinn Féin, Armagh DEA) became the new first citizen, with Cllr Kyle Savage (UUP, Lagan River) chosen for the role of Deputy Lord Mayor.

They take over from outgoing Lord Mayor, Alderman Margaret Tinsley (DUP, Craigavon DEA), and outgoing Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Sorchá McGeown (SF, Lurgan DEA).

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Aged just 32, Cllr Duffy was nominated by Cllr Catherine Nelson (SF, Craigavon DEA), who commented: “We have Cllr Duffy’s two girls in the audience with us, and how beautiful they look. They are two little princesses, and they are the proudest princesses in the borough this evening.

ABC Lord Mayor, Cllr Sarah Duffy. Credit: ABC CouncilABC Lord Mayor, Cllr Sarah Duffy. Credit: ABC Council
ABC Lord Mayor, Cllr Sarah Duffy. Credit: ABC Council

“You are just new into the role and already in one year you’ve made a real impact in Armagh city, so I have no doubt of the impact that you will have across the borough.”

The new Lord Mayor stated in her inaugural speech: “It is a great honour and a privilege for me to accept the office and the role of Mayor for ABC Council for the forthcoming year.

“I have to admit that being the first citizen of the borough was never on my bingo card, but if life has taught me anything so far, it’s that the best things you don’t see coming.

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“Firstly, I would like to be associated with remarks to the outgoing Mayor and Deputy Mayor. I have watched this year as you have both worked tirelessly in your roles representing the borough in a way that has exemplified the whole ethos of ABC Council.

ABC Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Kyle Savage. Credit: ABC CouncilABC Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Kyle Savage. Credit: ABC Council
ABC Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Kyle Savage. Credit: ABC Council

Many Messages

“I would like to thank my SF party colleagues for the many messages, phone calls and words of advice over the weekend since my nomination. I appreciate every single one of them.

“My family is here in the chamber tonight, and I want to welcome them here. This role would never have been an option for me without their love and support.

“My twin daughters Emily and Lucia are also here with us tonight. They are my entire world. When you are a single parent those words take on a resonance in a way that sometimes others would fail to understand.

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“Tonight is a proud moment for me, but nothing in life will ever make me prouder than how the three of us have navigated the past eight years together.

“My sincere thanks to the constituents of Armagh city who put their faith in me and elected me as a councillor this time last year. It has been a whirlwind of a year, and I have had the privilege of meeting many people from all different walks of life.”

The new Lord Mayor added she would do all in her power to support Women’s Aid: “The charity provides shelter for many women and children across our borough. They provide educational opportunities, places of safety and short-term crisis management. Women’s Aid faces chronic underfunding at a time when violence against women and girls is at an all-time high.

Pay Tribute

“We have all been horrified by the tragic deaths of local women Natalie McNally and Katie Simpson in recent years, and tonight I want to pay tribute to their families as they continue their fight for justice.

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“As of tonight, there are 380 women across our borough who are on a waiting list for refuge and support from Women’s Aid, that is 380 women who are currently at risk of coming to serious harm or death at the hands of their abuser.

“I want to give you all my commitment that I will use this office to the very best of my ability. I will continue to reach out the hand of friendship. I will be a Mayor for all.”

Councillor Duffy first became an elected representative in 2023. She has served as a member of the ABC Policing & Community Safety Partnership, Performance and Audit committee, as well as the Governance, Resources and Strategy committee.

As per the rota system in place within ABC, it was the UUP’s turn to nominate the Deputy Lord Mayor. Cllr Julie Flaherty (UUP, Portadown DEA) nominated Cllr Kyle Savage (UUP, Lagan River DEA) for the position.

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Cllr Flaherty said: “We are assured that Kyle will take on this role with his full heart and soul. Be assured, Kyle, that you have the whole UUP across the borough behind you, and we know that your loving and supportive family will be with you all of the way.

“Many of us remember your late father, George Savage, a passionate advocate for his community, and clearly the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.”

Thanking Cllr Flaherty for her kind words, and thanking the wider ABC Council for welcoming him as their new Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Savage said: “It’s an honour for me to take up this role again. In 2020, during the dark days of Covid, I had the pleasure of serving as well, but I want to thank them for giving me this opportunity.

“I want to thank my wife, daughters, and my family and friends for all their support over the years. I want to thank the constituents of Lagan River for putting their trust in me again, and I look forward to serving them and indeed the whole borough.

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“As many of you know, I volunteer within TADA Support Network which brings us close to so many problems that exist within our communities, such as isolation and wellbeing issues. “I will use my term in office to raise awareness of these problems and to help build confidence capacity and to empower our communities.”

Cllr Savage was co-opted onto Craigavon Borough Council in November 2014 when his father George Savage, a former Upper Bann MLA and thrice-serving Mayor of Craigavon, passed away. His mother, Joy Savage, who served as a Craigavon councillor, also donned mayoral chains in 1993/94.

François Vincent, Local Democracy Reporter