In the wake of the failure to find a Unionist to fill the post of Alex Maskey’s deputy, Barry McCaffrey pinpoints some awkward inconsistencies about the way Unionists have handled the office office of Belfast’s Mayoral position in the past. Namely the fact that they have chosen to elect protestant paramilitaries to the same office:
“In the late 1980s unionist councillors elected the PUPs Hugh Smyth as deputy mayor, four years before the UVFs ceasefire. In June 1994, Mr Smyth was elected first citizen four months before the UVF ceasefire. In December 2000 deputy mayor Frank McCoubrey, who despite being a member of the UDA-linked UDP was elected to the post by mainstream unionist councillors, was a character witness for a man in court on attempted murder charges relating to the UDA/UVF feud.”
He claims this closeness extends further:
“In 1986 DUP leader Ian Paisley defended his decision to attend the wake of murdered UVF leader John Bingham. A number of other high-ranking unionist councillors attended Mr Binghams funeral. Those present when John Binghams coffin draped in a UVF flag, beret and gloves was carried from the church, included the then north Belfast MP Cecil Walker, former DUP councillor George Seawright, former UUP mayor John Carson and councillors Joe Coggle, Frank Millar and Hugh Smyth.”
He also points out that the current stance is not kept elsewhere:
“The Rev McCrea holds the chairmanship of Magherafelt District Council with Sinn Féins John Kelly as his deputy. Strabane DUP councillor Tommy Kerrigan last year took the position of deputy mayor alongside Sinn Féin mayor Ivan Barr.”
Alban McGuinness, who proposed a motion last week to call off the search for a deputy until Maskey steps down, accused Unionists of living in a ‘twilight zone’.