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8 June 2000 Edition

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Unionist hypocrisy elects Belfast mayor

BY LAURA FRIEL

Sinn Fein is ``incapable of representing all the people'' of Belfast city but Sammy Wilson of the DUP can? The Sammy Wilson who as Belfast Mayor in 1986 was caught wearing his chain of office at an Ulster Resistance rally at the Ulster Hall?

The same DUP councillor who proposed a resolution congratulating the UDA death squad who assassinated Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton in 1991? Who described Sinn Féin voters as ``sub human animals'' and once declared ``Taigs aren't ratepayers''?

The Ulster Unionists Party's decision to thwart Sinn Féin's hopes of electing their longest-serving city councillor, Alex Maskey, as mayor last week in favour of the DUP's Sammy Wilson was not simply an act of bare-faced hypocrisy, it was also blatantly sectarian.

The Ulster Unionist Party justified their vote by saying that Sinn Féin does not attract cross community support and is incapable of representing all the people of the city. Their comments sounded all the more hollow following the exemplary record of Sinn Féin's Marie Moore, who served as deputy mayor last year.

The Ulster Unionist Party also nominated a member of the loyalist Ulster Democratic Party, which is linked to the UDA, Frank McCoubrey, as deputy mayor. The UDA is currently engaged in a bloody feud with the UVF, the latest victim of which, Martin Taylor, was buried less than a week before the City Hall vote.

But this is not the first time the UUP have been involved in a sectarian head count at the City Hall. In 1994, Hugh Smyth of the Progressive Unionist Party, a party linked to the loyalist UVF, was elected as Belfast mayor with the support of the Ulster Unionist Party.

At the time of Smyth's election, the UVF were not on ceasefire and in 1994 they were engaged in a brutal sectarian killing campaign in which 25 people died and many more injured, almost all in random sectarian attacks.

The attacks included the brutal slaying of Margaret Wright, who was battered and shot to death in a loyalist drinking den in the mistaken belief she was a Catholic. Pensioner Roseanne Mallon, shot repeatedly in the back as she watched television in a relative's house in Tyrone. Two Catholic students, Gavin McShane and Shane McArdle, both 17 years of age were shot dead, six Catholic football fans were gunned down as they watched a match at a pub in Loughinisland, County Down and pregnant mother of five Kathleen O Hagan was killed in Tyrone.

The unionist benches at City Hall were packed to capacity for Thursday night's mayoral vote. UUP Assembly members Michael McGimpsey and Reg Empey, who also hold seats on Belfast City Council, rushed from meetings at Stormont to cast their votes for the anti-Agreement DUP and loyalist UDP candidates.

The bitter differences between the loyalist political groupings the PUP and UDP, fuelled by the current bloody feud being waged between the UVF and UDA, were momentarily suspended as PUP councillors voted in support of the UDP candidate for deputy mayor.

But it was still close. By a margin of 26 to 24, in a recorded vote, DUP councillor Sammy Wilson was elected mayor and UDP councillor Frank McCoubrey deputy mayor. The irony of Sammy Wilson, a bitter opponent of the new Assembly, securing the post courtesy of the pro-Agreement councillors of the UUP and PUP was lost in the rush to deny Sinn Féin the position.

Maskey's mayoral bid was further undermined by the absence through ill health of SDLP councillor Carmel Hanna and dissident Alliance councillor Danny Dow's defection following his party's decision to back Sinn Féin.

Afterwards, Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey described himself as ``disappointed but not surprised''. Unionists had collapsed the election of the city's mayor into a ``sectarian headcount,'' he said, a view echoed by the SDLP and Alliance Party.

SDLP group leader Catherine Molloy labelled the election ``a night of shame''. The unionists had used the hard arithmetic of this election to take all the top positions for themselves, she said.

Alliance Party councillor David Alderdice described the position of the UUP as ``sheer hypocrisy''. They are not prepared to support Sinn Fein but they were prepared to vote for a candidate associated with the UDA and UFF, he said.


1994 UVF killings. The year in which UUP councillors elected PUP member Hugh Smyth as Belfast City mayor.

Cormac McDermott (31) Catholic electrician, 27 Jan

Mark Sweeney (31) Catholic taxi driver, 3 Feb

Francis Brown (38) Catholic, 11 March

Margaret Wright (31) mistaken for a Catholic, 6 April

Ian Hamilton (21) 12 April

James Browne (48) Catholic newsagent, 28 April

Roseanne Mallon (76) Catholic pensioner, 8 May

Eamon Fox (44) Catholic electrician, 17 May

Gary Convie (24) Catholic builder, 17 May

Gavin McShane (17) Catholic student 18 May

Shane McArdle (17) Catholic student 18 May

Martin Doherty (35) IRA Volunteer, 21 May

Maurice O Kane (50) Catholic shipyard worker, 9 June

Gerard Brady (27) Catholic taxi driver, 17 June

Cecil Dougherty (30) mistaken as Catholic, 17 June

William Corrigan (32) mistaken as Catholic, 10 July

Adrian Rogan (24) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June

Daniel McCreanor (59) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June

Eamon Byrne (39) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June

Patrick O Hare (35) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June

Barney Green (87) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June

Malcolm Jenkinson (53) Catholic Loughinisland, 18 June

David Thompson (48) Protestant, 5 August

Kathleen O Hagan (38) Catholic, 7 August

Sean MacDermot (37) Catholic builder, 31 Aug


Sammy Wilson's sectarian soundbites



``Irish is a leprechaun language.'' Irish News, 3 Nov 1987

 


``Leadbelly.'' Sunday World 17 January 1988. A comment about fellow Belfast councillor Alex Maskey after he was shot in the stomach by a loyalist death squad

 


``Our message to the perverts who voted for them [Sinn Féin] is that they will not get anything through this council.'' Andersonstown News 5 March 1988

 


``I have no regret that someone openly identified with terrorist organisations and activities meets his death the same way.''Irish Times 24 Sept 1988 after the loyalist killing of Gerard Slane.

 


``The GAA is the sporting wing of the IRA,''Irish News 6 Sept 1989

 


``Would this council be prepared to congratulate all those who have done a good job on two sides of the border.'' Sunday World 15 June 1991 reference to the loyalist murder of Sinn Féin Donegal councillor Eddie Fullerton

 


``5,000 sub human animals.'' News Letter 3 Sept 1991 voters who returned Joe Austin to City Hall

 


``They are poofs. I don't care if they are ratepayers. As far as I am concerned they are perverts.'' Daily Express 1 June 1992 after gay rights activists had requested the use of City Hall

 


``Taigs don't pay rates.'' Irish Times 12 January 2000

 

Cathal Crumley elected Derry mayor



``I will discharge all the responsibilities of mayor to the best of my ability and I intend to do so with generosity, camaraderie and vision. I intend to embark upon a year characterised by a new openness, inclusivity and accountability,''said newly elected Derry mayor Cathal Crumley of Sinn Féin.

Cheers and sustained applause filled the Guildhall chambers as the results of the election were made known. A former republican POW and blanketman, Cathal Crumley defeated the unionist nominee Ernie Hamilton by 21 votes to 8. It was an historic victory.

Cathal Crumley is the first Sinn Féin mayor of an Irish city since Terence MacSwiney was elected in Cork in 1920. But Cathal's thoughts were closer to home. In his acceptance speech, the newly elected mayor quoted Derry nationalist H.C. O'Doherty.

```Today, a long and painful chapter in the history of Derry is closed and a new one is opened.' O'Doherty said these very words in 1920 when he was elected the first Catholic Mayor of Derry since 1688,'' said Crumley.

``O'Doherty continued: `I trust when it comes to be written it will show a spirit of toleration and forbearance amongst all creeds and classes.' These words are as relevant today as they were eighty years ago,'' Cathal told the hall. ``O'Doherty's groundbreaking election came about due to the combined Sinn Féin/nationalist vote under a proportional representation system. Shortly after proportional representation was abandoned. The majority community of this city had to wait another 50 years to have one of its members elected mayor of Derry City.

``Contrary to O'Doherty's optimism upon his election, the discrimination, demonisation and exclusion that he was referring to did not end with the election of a nationalist mayor in 1973. Until tonight it continued to be practised against republicans.'' said Cathal.

``Thankfully, tonight sees the closing of the door on the politics of exclusion with my election as the first Sinn Féin mayor of Derry City. As O'Doherty expressed all those years ago, `the mayoralty should be within the reach of every deserving citizen'.

``We are changing the face of Derry, the failed politics of exclusion end tonight and I can assure you that during my term of office no one will be denied their rights. I will be open, impartial, fair and pragmatic.

``I offer my hand of friendship to the unionist community and trust they will have the maturity to react in a reciprocal fashion for the betterment of this city. For that is what this office is all about.''

The annual meeting started 20 minutes late after more than 200 people who had gathered outside the Guildhall were allowed into the chambers to witness the election. Education Minister Martin McGuinness watched the proceedings from the public gallery.

The only sour note came from unionist councillors Gregory Campbell of the DUP and Ulster Unionist Andrew Davidson. ``The election of a terrorist mayor will make the chasm [between unionist and nationalist] wider and deeper than ever before,'' said Campbell. Davidson was afraid of ``a year of republican triumphalism''.

Unionist councillor Ernie Hamilton was returned for a second term as deputy mayor with the unanimous support of the council.

GUE-NGL-new-Jan-2106

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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