21 June 2001 Edition
Molloy and Barr elected as Maskey waits
BY LAURA FRIEL
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed his delight at the election of party colleague Francie Molloy as chairperson of Dungannon Council on Monday night. The Sinn Féin councillor took the post, the first time for his party, with Derek Irwin of the Ulster Unionist Party elected as deputy.
``For many years Dungannon Council excluded Sinn Féin members from taking the council chair. This week's election of Francie Molloy marks an important development and shows clearly that equality is quickly becoming part of the life of local government here,'' said Adams.
``In recent elections, Sinn Féin increased its seats by over 30. We are now the largest party on a number of local councils and I would expect more Sinn Féin members to take the top positions on councils over the next four years.''
Dungannon Council now holds a nationalist majority for the first time. The council adopted the D'Hondt system in favour of power sharing. Francie Molloy said the election of Sinn Féin as chair was ``inevitable and overdue''.
Meanwhile, a meeting between Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party to discuss Sinn Féin taking the mayor's post in Belfast for the first time have been described as ``cordial'' but broke up without agreement.
The meeting followed Sinn Féin's official naming of Alex Maskey as the party's candidate for mayor. But Sinn Féin needs the backing of the Alliance Party, which holds the balance of power in the city's council chambers. To date, the top job has been denied Sinn Féin despite a big increase in the party's share of the vote in the city over a number of years.
Sinn Féin has now emerged as the biggest party represented on the council, winning 14 seats in last week's local government election. The council is expected to elect a mayor next Monday night.
Commenting, Upper Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Browne described the election of a Sinn Féin mayor as a democratic imperative. ``Sinn Féin has been returned for a second consecutive term as the largest party in Belfast. Despite our substantial mandate we have to date been systematically blocked from taking the position of mayor.''
DUP councillor criticised for shaking Sinn Féin hand
Strabane DUP Councillor Thomas Kerrigan was forced to retract comments he made after he congratulated Sinn Féin Councillor Ivan Barr on his election as council chairperson.
Kerrigan, who was himself elected as vice chair, responded in time honoured fashion by shaking hands with the newly elected chair but it has enraged DUP leader Ian Paisley, who is demanding disciplinary action against the Strabane councillor.
According to the media, in a passing remark Kerrigan told Barr that he could work with him, a sentiment that reflects on-the-ground realities but falls far from DUP policy. In a press statement the following day, Kerrigan withdrew his remarks and claimed that he had been misrepresented.
The DUP councillor said he had meant he could only work with Sinn Féin if ``they repent their evil deeds, apologise to the security forces and hand in all their weapons''. Kerrigan said he had pursued DUP policy of isolating Sinn Féin but admitted ``it is not in our hands to isolate these people, they have a mandate''.
The beleaguered councillor said that while the DUP vote was declining in Strabane, Sinn Féin was getting stronger. ``That's the cross we have to bear,'' he said.
Fellow Strabane councillor Ivan Barr, whose election to council chairperson had led to the handshake, described himself as ``sympathetic'' to the DUP man's plight, saying he had come under ``unfortunate pressure.''
``It was no big deal,'' said Barr. ``A hand of congratulation was extended by me and accepted.'' Barr said that in 1985, when he was elected as chair for the first time, the DUP and UUP had repeatedly disrupted council meetings, blowing horns and whistles, but that was a thing of the past.
More recently, unionist councillors had accepted the necessity of working with Sinn Féin, putting aside their party's differences and concentrating on `bread and butter' issues in the interests of the whole community in Strabane.
Sinn Féin Chair in Cootehill
A member of Sinn Féin took the position of Chairperson of Cootehill Town Commissioners for the first time this week. The new first citizen of the County Cavan town is Harry McCabe, who was one of the party's six local authority members elected in the County in 1999.
Harry McCabe was elected unanimously by his fellow Commissioners last Monday night. He thanked them for the support and said he was ``very glad to be part of the process of cooperation on this body which ensures that all elected opinion is given the opportunity to occupy the chair.
``It is a source of personal pride to be accorded the position of first citizen of the town and it is also a little piece of history as this is the first time that a Sinn Féin Commissioner is Chairperson of Cootehill Town Commissioners.''
Among his priorities for the coming 12 months, Harry McCabe cited the need to ensure public access to Dartry Estate, a local demesne, and in view of the scale of proposed housing development around the town, ``to see this elected body using our united voice to encourage job creation as well''.
Harry McCabe said his election was ``another small part of the big picture, which is the development of real peace and political progress with respect for all mandates. With cooperation, mutual respect and equality for all who share our town and our island, the future will be bright.''
Sinn Féin Councillors
Local Election 2001
GEAROID Ó hEARA
Dungannon & South Tyrone
PADDY Mac GIOLLA GHUNNA
Newry & Mourne District
Hyland elected chair of Newry & Mourne
On Monday 18 June, Sinn Féin councillor Davy Hyland was elected as chairperson of the new Newry & Mourne District Council.
Councillor Hyland said:
``I am delighted to have been elected as chairperson of Newry & Mourne District Council. I will represent all the people of this area to the best of my ability. On behalf of all Sinn Féin councillors I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone throughout the district who voted for Sinn Féin and also thanks to all our party activists who worked very hard during the elections.
``Sinn Féin is now the largest party on Newry & Mourne District Council. In keeping with our equality agenda, we will ensure that the allocation of council positions will be fair and just for everyone. This will ensure that the inequalities of the past will no longer be tolerated. We are conscious of the fact that there is no unionist councillor in Newry town ward but we will work with local people to ensure that this section of our community will be fully represented at all levels.
``We will be implementing greater openness and transparency in council matters. Ratepayers are entitled to receive quality services and value for money. A full explanation of how their rates are spent is needed. We proposed and will be encouraging the setting up of a Citizens' Forum for the council area. This will allow the community a stronger voice in local government.
``Our record of grass-roots community work is second to none and Iâm sure that with our strengthened mandate of 13 councillors we will be to the fore in every part of our community in dealing with any problems that arise.
``I congratulate everyone who stood for election and look forward to working together with all elected councillors to improve the well-being of everyone in the Newry & Mourne area.''