Kenya’s Lilian Seenoi-Barr Becomes First Black Politician to be Elected to Any Public Office in Northern Ireland


After being chosen as a new SDLP councilor in Derry, Lilian Seenoi-Barr of Kenya became the first Black politician to be elected to any public office in Northern Ireland. In place of outgoing councilwoman Mary Durkan, the prominent Black Lives Matter activist will represent the Foyleside neighborhood on the Derry and Strabane District Council.

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, a member of the Maasai tribe, arrived in Northern Ireland as an asylum seeker from Kenya in 2010. She assisted in establishing a Maasai education project while she was in Kenya in order to protect Maasai women and girls from female genital mutilation and forced marriages.

As the founder and director of the North West Migrants Forum, which offers assistance to the black and other minority ethnic communities residing in Northern Ireland, she is currently well-known in that region. Seenoi-Barr, a newly elected SDLP councillor, has stated that it is “a real honor” to have been chosen 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.

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