Lilian Seenoi-Barr: Breaking Barriers and Building Futures in Northern Ireland


Lilian Seenoi-Barr has become Northern Ireland’s first black mayor, and only the third on the island of Ireland. This significant achievement marks a step forward in inclusivity and representation in the region.

Seenoi-Barr’s journey to becoming mayor of Derry City and Strabane is a testament to resilience and dedication. Originally from Narok, Kenya, she arrived in Londonderry 14 years ago as a refugee. Her rise to the position of mayor was celebrated at a special council meeting, where she was installed in front of a crowd of about 300 people, including family, friends, Kenyan political representatives, and members from various ethnic minority groups across Ireland.

Reflecting on her journey, Seenoi-Barr expressed her disbelief and gratitude:

“If you told me that I would become the first citizen of the second city, I would not have believed you.”

Her story is one of perseverance and community spirit. Since being co-opted by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 2021, she has served as a councillor for the Foyleside ward. Seenoi-Barr is committed to working hard for the entire community, emphasizing her accessibility and leadership with hope.

“Together let’s embrace our differences and build a new future together,”

she stated during her installation. Her vision for a more inclusive, prosperous, and vibrant Derry City and Strabane District Council is rooted in unity and progressive change.

Born and raised in Narok, Kenya, Seenoi-Barr was educated in women’s reproductive health and community development. She became a prominent campaigner for gender rights among Maasai women, focusing on issues such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. However, threats to her safety due to her activism forced her to leave Kenya. Invited to Derry by the Changaro Trust, she sought refuge and eventually founded the North West Migrants Forum in 2012, where she serves as the programme manager.

Her political career with the SDLP saw her first stand for election in 2019, followed by her co-option onto the council in 2021 and re-election in 2023. In becoming mayor, Seenoi-Barr also became the first black person elected to public office in Northern Ireland.

Seenoi-Barr’s story is not just about breaking barriers but also about inspiring future generations. Her journey from a Kenyan village to becoming Northern Ireland’s first black mayor is a powerful narrative of hope and determination. As she leads Derry and Strabane, her commitment to inclusivity and community development promises to build a better future for all.

This significant appointment is a reminder of the progress being made in fostering diversity and representation in leadership roles. As Seenoi-Barr leads with a focus on unity and progressive change, her story serves as an inspiration for many.

It is our time to build a more inclusive, prosperous and vibrant Derry City and Strabane District Council, under the banner of unity and progressive change, . “Thank you for your trust, your time and your support. Together let’s embrace our differences and build a new future together.

she said

Seenoi-Barr’s achievement is a celebration of diversity and a beacon of hope for communities striving for representation and equality. As she embarks on her mayoral journey, her leadership is set to inspire and pave the way for future generations.



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