Furious insults were hurled across the Craigavon council chamber on Tuesday night when the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein struck a deal to elect Colin McCusker (UUP) as Mayor and Catherine Seeley (SF) his deputy.
The DUP’s Darryn Causby was cold-shouldered for both posts at the council’s final annual meeting. Out-going Mayor Mark Baxter refused to invest McCusker - it was left to UUP group leader Kenneth Twyble to hand over the Chain, with Carla Lockhart stating, “Let him (McCusker) put the Chain on himself.”
The row erupted after contacts between UUP and DUP broke down prior to the meeting. The DUP, having filled the post for six of the past seven years, wanted to complete the line of Mayors. But the UUP insisted Deputy Mayor McCusker should be moved up and there was deadlock. Then, five minutes before the meeting was due to start, the UUP called in Sinn Fein and struck up a deal.
It led to a raging controversy when McCusker and Seeley were voted in.
The meeting began with Baxter telling how he had covered 700 events during his tenure - “right across the community”.
But when he was called upon to place the Chain around McCusker’s neck, he refused. There were calls of “Disgrace, absolutely shocking, filthy deal”, aimed at the UUP, who had held the post for the first 25 years of the council’s 42-year history.
Seeley said, “This is a historic day for Craigavon, giving us a post we have so richly deserved and has been long overdue since we entered this council in 1985. It is time to look forward and I’ll make this a positive year. Let us end this council on a positive note.”
Margaret Tinsley said that the move had shattered “the unionist unity the people are calling for”, But Arnold Hatch said the DUP rejected chances of unity by refusing to elevate McCusker.
The debate took an Orange twist, with Alan Carson telling McCusker and Hatch, “You’re no Orangemen”, and telling the new Mayor that his father (the late Harold McCusker) was “a great man”.
Joe Nelson (SDLP) asked, “Is this an Orange meeting or a council meeting?” It ended with the DUP snubbing the official photo, with 13 of the 26 councillor facing the camera.