Power-sharing in Moyle

SINN Fein’s Cara McShane is the new Chairperson of Moyle Council with the DUP’s Robert McIlroy as the Vice-Chair and they have both pledged to work together for the good of the district.

It was a night when applause rippled around the Ballycastle Council chamber as councillors from across the political divide clapped Cllr McShane as she took the Chair, and similar applause also rang out for Cllr McIlroy.

That was also the case earlier when Ulster Unionist Sandra Hunter stepped down from her successful year in office.

In fact as plaudits rained down on Cllr Hunter some councillors said her year was the best they had seen in their time at Moyle Council.

But now it is the turn of Cllr McShane who said she acknowledged there are some difficulties but said she wants to try to work together “for the betterment” of Moyle.

Cllr McIlroy agreed and added: “By working together then Moyle will prosper”.

Moyle Council uses the D’Hondt arrangement which means a number of parties get to be in the Chair during the council term.

This year it was the turn of Sinn Fein and the top two places were allocated without a vote taking place.

However, Independent Randal McDonnell is not a fan of D’Hondt because he believes it it not in keeping with the local government legislation.

The pre-meeting speculation was that the Sinn Fein Chair position was between Cllr McShane and Cllr Colum Thompson.

It was also the DUP’s turn to take the deputy seat.

The Council has an informal policy of ensuring that the top two seats are occupied by a nationalist and unionist and vice-versa.

Cllr McShane and Cllr McIlroy had occupied the same two council positions back in 2009-10.

Cara McShane’s brother, Independent Padraig McShane, said the two councillors had been a “wonderful double act” in the past.

Cllr Seamus Blaney (Independent) said: “I hope you will have a very good year together” and Cllr Noreen McAllister (Sinn Fein) joked: “You may kiss the bride!”.

The joviality and the good mood in the chamber was an indication of the feel good factor regarding power-sharing and perhaps shows how much Northern Ireland in general has changed in recent years.

Applause from around the table may not have happened in the past.

Regarding Cllr Hunter, she packed in a lot of work during her year as Council Chair and attended a range of events across the community stretching from the Causeway to the Glens.

Her happy-go-lucky nature endeared her to all and when her term ended the praise was fulsome from all quarters around the table at Sheskburn House.

Cllr Hunter said one of her core values when she took office was to work for all of the community in Moyle and she said she believed that was what she had done.

New Sinn Fein Council Chairperson Cllr Cara McShane, whose first words upon taking the Chair were in Irish, told Cllr Hunter: “You really represented this Council fairly”.

Cllr Randal McDonnell (Independent) said people were completely amazed by Cllr Hunter’s energy and conscientious approach to her council duties.

He thanked her for giving one of the best years as a Chairperson in Moyle in all his time in the Council from 1985.

Cllr Willie Graham (Ulster Unionist) said Cllr Hunter had put in “110 per cent” of effort and Cllr Seamus Blaney (Independent) - who had been in the deputy Chair last year - said he enjoyed working with Cllr Hunter.

SDLP councillor Catherine McCambridge said Cllr Hunter had been very even-handed and was probably the best Chair she had seen in her 12 years at Sheskburn.

She said she was glad to hear Cllr Hunter speak in Ulster-Scots at the end of her leaving remarks.