New Islington mayor pledged to be people’s mayor

Trade unionist councillor Gary Heather quoted his hero  American founding father Thomas Paine: “my country is my world and my religion is to do good.”

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Mayor Of Islington 2023 24 Cllr Gary Heather
Mayor Of Islington 2023 24 Cllr Gary Heather. Photo: Islington Council

“I want to be a mayor for all,” pledged councillor Gary Heather as he started his mayoral year in Islington.

He paid tribute to his family and their support in “the struggle to survive and prosper,” which working class families face.

“That should not be necessary – it has been my life’s work to fight inequality.”

Trade unionist cllr Heather quoted his hero American founding father Thomas Paine who wrote part of the Rights of Man in Angel and said “my country is my world and my religion is to do good.”

Cllr Heather said: “This quote from Paine has always resonated with me as it speaks to the importance of looking outwards, to build connections and to working together to create a better society.”

Later he explained how he first discovered the author’s work browsing on the shelves at Islington Central library and read them all in lunch breaks from work.

He is a former chair of Islington Trades Council and has been active on the Andover estate residents steering committee and a Finsbury Park trustee as well as serving on the Nags Head and Finsbury Park town centre management groups.

One of the ward councillors for Finsbury Park cllr Heather grew up in Camden and moved to Islington since 1975, first in Archway and now in Holloway.

The Labour politician joined the council in 2014 and since then has served on a number of scrutiny committees, including the environment committee.

He has also been active in campaigning, including the fight to keep A&E at the Whittington Hospital.

Cllr Nurullah Turan said: “He is a voice of reason.

“He is a good, decent, honest, compassionate, kind and hard-workng person and he has devoted his life to Islington and the people of Islington.”

Cllr Heather’s civil partner cllr Tricia Clarke, who represents Tufnell Park, is the new mayoress and cllr Anjna Khurana (Tollington) is the new deputy mayor.

Cllr Heather will raise funds for his chosen charity Voluntary Action Islington.

He said:”The work they do is vital to creating a more equal Islington – empowering the expansion of volunteering to help people across the borough, as well as promoting inclusion and the power of community.”

Outgoing mayor Marian Spall raised £20,000 for her chosen charities Whittington Health Charity and Ronald McDonald Moorfields House.

She reflected on a busy mayoral year “when so much has changed”, with the death of Queen Elizabeth and the sombre time following her passing and this month’s Coronation of King Charles III. The mayor recently attended 34 street parties and events in Islington as part of the Coronation celebrations.

Her fellow Hillrise ward councillor Michelline Safi Ngongo said: “To see the work you did over the past year to bring our community together. I witnessed the way you engage with our children and young people in the borough..”

Fellow ward cllr Dave Poyser praised her “charm and her collective approach to being mayor.”

“You are an Islingtonian through and through.”

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