NATIONALIST councillors have expressed ‘disgust’ at the ‘dissident’ DUP after they refused to stand for a minute’s silence in memory of Sinn Fein Councillor John McNamee’s brother who died recently.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting DUP councillors were absent for the minute’s silence in memory of Pius McNamee but arrived later and it transpired that at a recent meeting to discuss town twinning the DUP had refused to stand for a minute’s silence.
Councillor McNamee, whose 57-year-old brother died suddenly two weeks ago, said: “It is an absolute disgrace and insulting.”
He said that since Sinn Fein had arrived at Cookstown Council they had never disrespected anyone’s family in that manner and he described the DUP’s stance as ‘just an act of bigotry’.
And SDLP Councillor James McGarvey described the DUP members as ‘dissident DUP who do not march in the same field as the DUP’ and likened the situation to Nazi Germany when the Jews were vilified for being Jews.
Sinn Fein Councillor Cathal Mallaghan said: “We thought in the last election we had seen the TUV off to the dustpan but we have them here by proxy in the DUP.”
Before the meeting began, the only DUP councillor in the chamber was Maureen Lees. Minutes before the council meeting was due to start and when Council Chairman Sean Clarke came into the room, Councillor Lees quickly left the chamber.
The Chairman then asked for a minute’s silence for Councillor McNamee’s brother and all members who were there stood.
Vice Chairperson SDLP Councillor Christine McFlynn and Ulster Unionist Councillor Sam Glasgow both offered sympathy to the McNamee family.
Soon after Councillor Lees arrived back in the Chamber and five minutes later DUP councillor Sam McCartney also came in. It wasn’t until almost 7.25pm, almost half an hour after the meeting began, that DUP councillor Ian McCrea arrived to the meeting.
At that stage, Councillor McNamee launched a scathing attack on the DUP for their ‘disrespectful’ behaviour.
He said: “I think it is disgusting that the DUP clearly did not come to the meeting so they didn’t have to stand for a minute’s silence.”
He said it followed on from earlier in the year when his mother died and accused them of walking out during minute’s silence for family members of other Sinn Fein Councillors.
He said the DUP was out of step with their party leader Peter Robinson and asked how he would expect Catholic voters to vote DUP with this sort of behaviour going on.
Sinn Fein councillor Cathal Mallaghan said: “This council cant build community relationships because the DUP wont let us.”
Chairman Sean Clarke said: “It is time that people grew up and accepted people for what they are. Those without sin cast the first stone.”
DUP councillor and MLA Ian McCrea said he was just back from Stormont. He said while he sympathised with those who had suffered a loss he did not want to make it political.
“I was not here and the start of the meeting and I have no desire to make it a big press issue,” he said.
“I am not interested in making a political issue of this tonight,” said the DUP councillor.
However Councillor McNamee accused him of making excuses and said it was a moral issue and the DUP had been disrespectful.
SDLP councillor James McGarvey said it was not Christian-like to be disrespectful of the dead.