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Widespread tributes as first female mayor of Derry dies

By Nevin Farrell

Published 18/08/2015

Popular: Marlene Jefferson
Popular: Marlene Jefferson

Tributes have been paid to the first female Mayor of Derry, Marlene Jefferson of the Ulster Unionist Party, who died yesterday.

Mrs Jefferson was elected to the position in 1980, becoming the first female leader of the city since the local government revamp of 1973.

Elected to the council in 1973, she remained on it until 1981 and was awarded an MBE. She also served on the Altnagelvin Hospital Trust from 1995 onwards.

Ulster Unionist councillor Mary Hamilton described her death as "the end of an era".

She said: "She was a wonderful woman and was involved in so many community issues. During her time as mayor, she was a great ambassador for our city.

"If Marlene knew you needed help, she was there for you. On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the Jefferson family."

William Lamrock, a long-term member of the UUP, said Marlene was "a firm and strong Ulster Unionist".

He added: "She believed in a unionism that saw this country as being for all of us, and she was a massive figure in the city."

He also revealed that she entered politics almost by accident.

"The Ulster Unionist Party wanted to approach her husband about running as a candidate for council and when they left the house they had a candidate - Marlene," he said. "She would have worked for people across the city, from the Bogside, the Fountain through to the Waterside."

Fountain community worker Jeanette Warke said: "We were lifelong friends. I grew up only a few streets away from Marlene and anyone who knew her will know that she was such a mother figure to all in her family.

"She developed into such a powerful figure in the community and was an inspirational figure for women in the community."

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