Cookstown council’s last chief talks about the town’s journey from 1973, and the challenges ahead

Cookstown 'Looking Good Looking Great' as it picked up 'Best Kept Medium Town' at the Northern Ireland Amenity Council Awards 2014
Cookstown 'Looking Good Looking Great' as it picked up 'Best Kept Medium Town' at the Northern Ireland Amenity Council Awards 2014

On April 1, Cookstown and Magherafelt councils will cease to be, but with over 40 years history we asked Cookstown’s last chief about times-gone-by, and how he feels about the challenges ahead.

And although conceding that he is sad to be moving on, Adrian McCreesh said he feels honoured to have been part of the major transition Cookstown has gone through over the past 20 years.

From a “town that was on its knees in the 70s and 80s” he spoke passionately about his part in the regeneration strategy that made Cookstown “the envy others” today.

First established in 1973, when the previous rural and urban districts merged and the Troubles were in full swing, Cookstown has seen many changes over the years.

The council went from one dominated by unionist voices, to an array of political views, with the help of the D’Hondt system.

But one thing that Mr McCreesh said he is very proud of, is that Cookstown councillors, when it came to improving their town - never let politics get in the way.

Cookstown's old town hall was replaced by the Burnavon

Cookstown's old town hall was replaced by the Burnavon

“Development was apolitical,” he said, “across all parties, across the entirety of the chamber.

“In the twenty years that I have been here, I cannot remember one development proposal that I have brought to that council, in any shape or form, that has been rejected on political grounds.”

And those improvements were vast, as well replacing the old town hall with the Burnavon, the council also built the Mid Ulster Sports Area, a new Leisure Centre, Ballyronan Marina and, against the wishes of some, planted the now iconic trees that light it up at Christmas.

But, according to Adrian McCreesh: “The greatest thing that we have done for our district is engender, promote and ingrain a sense of civic pride in the Cookstown district.”

New signs in Cookstown say 'Visit, Shop, Enjoy'

New signs in Cookstown say 'Visit, Shop, Enjoy'

Something that he now hopes to instil in all of Mid Ulster’s towns when he becomes Mid Ulster’s director of business and communities.

“We are in a fantastic position to shape and influence people’s lives,” he added.

“It will not be easy, but we will do it.”

Five things that made Cookstown

The Mail asked Cookstown Council’s last chief the five decisions that made Cookstown District the place it is today.

This is what he said:

1. In the early 1990s Cookstown District Council decided to embrace a development approach and take responsibility for its towns and villages.

2. Power sharing has been extremely successful in Cookstown. The D’Hondt system facilitated a collective responsibility and secured a partnership approach across all parties.

3. Cookstown District Council has built a reputation of being a friendly organisation.

4. Regeneration has been a catalyst for district-wide advancement, creating jobs and a sense of civic pride in villages.

5. We embraced the first peace programmes, bringing millions into the district, helping to heal wounds, reconcile and change our mind sets to one of success.