DUP councillor would ‘rather die’ than be snapped with SF

OUTRAGE was expressed at a meeting of Cookstown District Council that a DUP councillor had said she would ‘rather die’ than be photographed with a Sinn Fein colleague.

Speaking at the Council meeting Sinn Fein’s Ciaran McElhone said it was disgraceful that DUP councillor Maureen Lees had stated at a Good Relations committee meeting of the council that she would rather die than have her photograph taken with a Sinn Fein Councillor.

The issue follows several meetings during which the DUP refused to stand for a minute’s silence in memory of a relative of Sinn Fein councillor John McNamee.

And at last week’s meeting of the Council’s Development Committee, Councillor Lees and Councillor Sam McCartney, both of the DUP refused to stand for a minute’s silence in memory of Councillor McNamee’s nephew Barry Shiels who died aged 24 from a rare health condition.

This is the third time within the past year there has been controversy over the DUP either not standing for one of Councillor McNamee’s relatives or either leaving the chamber or being late for the meeting at which there had been a minute’s silence.

At the full Council meeting, Councillor McElhone said it was disgraceful Councillor Lees had taken this attitude when the council was trying to build community relations and set an example to the district.

The issue had been raised at a Good Relations Committee established by Cookstown District Council to deal with various issues including the flying of flags.

And it was at this meeting that DUP Councillor Lees had said she would rather die than be photographed with former council chairman John McNamee.

Councillor McNamee’s mother Lily had died and at a subsequent council meeting the DUP refused to stand for a minute’s silence.

Late last year Councillor McNamee’s brother Pius had died and the DUP were not in the chamber for the minute’s silence held at that time.

Councillor McElhone, who is a member of the Good Relations Committee, said the Council should be setting an example and the attitude of the DUP was setting back community relations.

SF Councillor Cathal Mallaghan also voiced his disgust at the DUP saying it was making the job of building community relations more difficult.

Meanwhile Councillor McNamee said he had been left “insulted” by fellow councillors who refused to mark a minute’s silence following the death of his brother.

“It is totally disgraceful, but this is an ongoing thing,” Councillor John McNamee said. “The same thing happened when the fathers of Councillors McAleer and Clarke passed away. They refused to stand for a minute’s silence when my mother died and now they refused to enter the meeting until after the other members had respected a minute’s silence in memory of my brother.

“I have challenged the three DUP councillors on this issue. They are clearly out of step with their party and their community.”

It was at a Council meeting on December 13 when Councillors Ian McCrea, Maureen Lees and Samuel McCartney refused to enter the council chambers while the Council stood for a one minute silence as a mark of respect.

“This does seem to be a problem found only amongst councillors in Cookstown,” the Sinn Fein member said. “From our point of view it is not the our feelings but those of the wider family circle who are the worst affected. I personally couldn’t even contemplate doing this to anyone’s family.”

In June last year the DUP said it would write to the family of a Cookstown council employee whose sister had died and who had voiced their “deep hurt” at the party’s refusal to stand for a minute’s silence.

DUP councillor Ian McCrea apologised to the family while claiming that it was unfair that the minute’s silence was conducted jointly with that of councillor McNamee’s mother.

When contacted by the Mid Ulster Mail, Councillor Lees refused to comment.