13 June 1997 Edition

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Sinn Féin Councillors to chair Councils

THE FIRST NATIONALIST CHAIR of Cookstown council is Sinn Féin's Seán Begley. Begley was elected on Tuesday 10 June when the SDLP voted with Sinn Féin to defeat a combined unionist block of UUP, DUP and independents.

The combined nationalist vote of nine councillors reflects a shift in the balance of power away from the unionists in Cookstown Council, infamous for its `never on a Sunday' outlook.

The basis of the Sinn Féin-SDLP agreement was a power sharing proposal that would have given the unionists the post of vice-chair of the council. However the unionists declined to nominate anyone for the vice chair position and refused to accept positions on the various boards which were offered to them.

Both nationalist parties, therefore, decided to defer any decision to fill these posts until after a three month period during which they hope the unionists will reconsider their decision not to take part in the power sharing arrangement.

``Nationalists were consistently discriminated against by the unionist majority in Cookstown Council,'' Sean Begley said. ``Despite this, I, on behalf of all nationalists, offer the hand of friendship to unionists and their political representatives''.

•Meanwhile long serving Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor Patsy Groogan has been elected to the chair of Magherafelt council.

Groogan, who topped the poll in the Sperrin ward, was elected with the support of five SDLP votes. Ulster Unionist Bertie Montgomery was re-elected to the post of vice-chair despite his five unionist colleagues voting against him.

``Sinn Féin intends to work for all the people of Magherafelt district regardless of who they voted for. We intend to work for the good of the area, that is our policy; that is our outlook,'' Groogan said.

An Phoblacht
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