BY Mildred Europa Taylor, 10:45am May 22, 2023,

Kenyan from Maasai community becomes 1st Black politician to be elected to any public office in Northern Ireland

Lilian Seenoi-Barr. Photo via RTE

Kenya’s Lilian Seenoi-Barr has become the first Black politician to be elected to any public office in Northern Ireland after being selected as a new SDLP councillor in Derry. The refugee activist and well-known Black Lives Matter campaigner will represent the Foyleside area on Derry and Strabane District Council, replacing former councillor Mary Durkan.

RTE reports that she was co-opted onto the Council two years ago before being selected now to contest the seat. “When I joined Derry City and Strabane District Council just under two years ago, I had been chosen by the SDLP members,” Seenoi-Barr was quoted by the news platform. “At the time, I made a commitment that I would work tirelessly to earn people’s trust and deliver for the local area.”

Seenoi-Barr, who came to Northern Ireland from Kenya as an asylum seeker in 2010, is from the Maasai community. While in Kenya, she helped found an education project for Maasai women and girls to save them from female genital mutilation and forced marriages. 

She is currently known in Northern Ireland as the founder and director of the North West Migrants Forum, which provides support to black and minority ethnic communities living in Northern Ireland. As a new SDLP councillor, Seenoi-Barr has said that it is “a real honour” to be selected by the SDLP.

“It should be the mission of all political leaders to address and face down inequality wherever we find it, whether it is in health waiting lists, the investment we receive or the way people are treated. That will be my mission as a councillor,” she said.

The SDLP has also indicated that its vision for the future is based on building an inclusive, diverse new Ireland and Seenoi-Barr will be a leading voice in this thanks to her many years of work breaking down barriers and ending division.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023

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