Unreconstructed Unionism in Cookstown: Whither catholic outreach?

Whilst the unionist unity debate rages on, Mick’s thread linking to an article by Michael Shilliday, a vocal opponent within the UUP to the idea, is interesting for highlighting both the dangers of the aspiration for a unified unionist (or nationalist) voice and the gulf between the infrequently lofty rhetoric of the DUP’s Peter Robinson regarding his party’s vision of a unified community and the words and actions of his own fellow party members (more on that here and here.)

The policy of DUP councillors in Cookstown of refusing to stand for a minute’s silence for relatives of deceased Sinn Fein councillors was cited by Michael Shilliday as one reason why he opposed the ‘all Prods together’ strategy. Another blogger is also rather unimpressed, not least by the latest declaration by one of the Cookstown DUP councillors, Maureen Lees, that she would “rather die” than be photographed with a Sinn Fein colleague- a remark made during a meeting of the Council’s Good Relations Committee!  

From the Mid Ulster Mail:

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.”


An earlier row over this policy by DUP councillors had led to the party alleging it was unfair that a minute’s silence for the deceased mother of a Sinn Fein councillor was held alongwith one for the relative of a council employee.

Again from the Mid-Ulster Mail:

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.