War of words as Craigavon Council holds last meeting

Craigavon Deputy Mayor, Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley.
Craigavon Deputy Mayor, Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley.
  • Seeley and Lockhart in terse exchange
  • UUP commended on progress
  • DUP hit out at move

Craigavon’s Deputy Mayor Catherine Seeley and DUP group leader Carla Lockhart locked horns in the council’s final meeting on Monday night after Ms Seeley delivered her ‘farewell’ speech.

The Sinn Fein deputy – the first member of the party to make the top table in the council’s 41-year span – stated that “no nationalist nor republican would mourn the end of the borough council”.

You failed to represent the unionist people, despite claims of working together

Lockhart to Seeley

Claiming that she and Mayor Colin McCusker had “made a genuine effort to advocate and foster a spirit of co-operation, genuine power-sharing, working together and mutual respect,” she added, “What saddens me, however, is that it took over 30 years for this ideal to be realised.”

She recalled that the first two SF councillors to be elected back in the 1980s – Brendan Curran and Brian McCann – “were put out of this chamber by the RUC. Progress has been belated, slow and all too often resisted.”

“Nonetheless, I must commend those unionist politicians who did see the need to move equality forward and who did recognise that the domination of the Mayoral positions was unjust and no longer sustainable.”

Ms Seeley’s term as deputy was praised by, among others, Councillors Gemma McKenna, Joe Nelson and Kenneth Twyble. But Alderman Lockhart went on the attack, claiming that the Deputy Mayor had failed and insulted the unionist population.

She recalled that Ms Seeley had refused to lay a wreath in Lurgan on Remembrance Sunday – a duty that was performed by Councillor Meta Crozier – or raise the Forces Day flag at the Civic Centre.

“You failed to represent the unionist people, despite claims of working together,” said Ms Lockhart. “These were two special events which mean a lot to the Craigavon community and you failed them.”

There was also a furious exchange between Ms Lockhart and Councillor Ronnie Harkness who had also praised the Deputy Mayor “for serving Craigavon with distinction, despite the dissidents of the DUP. I wish you well.”

A shouting match followed, with Ms Lockhart stating, “When did Councillor Harkness last vote for a unionist mayor or support the Union Flag?” She added that the d’Hondt system in the ABC council would change things, “but so be it”.

Mr Harkness retorted, “I hear that Alderman Lockhart has already lost seven votes in the ABC shadow council. I hope she gets used to it.”