After more than four decades, and its fair share of rows over flags and emblems, Limavady Borough Council has come to the “end of an era”.
SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle, elected 24 years ago to Limavady Council, says the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council will mean big change.
“Pre-1973, there was always a Council in Limavady, but the new Causeway Council means, for the first time, there’ll be no seat in local government in Limavady to cover the Roe Valley area. It’s the end of an era,” Colr. Coyle told the Journal ahead of the final Council meeting on Tuesday night.
“It’ll be difficult to move on, but I’ve had a good innings,” says Colr. Coyle. “I’ve chaired most of the major committees in Council and I’ve been mayor. Being mayor gave me a lift because it was just after my wife, Mary, passed away. I loved meeting so many different people. Something that will always stick out for me is the children in Magilligan at Easter, and their parade. It was very minor, I suppose, but it’s a lovely memory.”
Colr. Coyle said councillors have worked fairly well through mundane but essential Council business. However, for 10 per cent of the time “minds didn’t meet” and that, he says, brought negative publicity for Limavady Council. Issues such as flags and emblems, the controversy surrounding the sale of the Market Yard and building a new civic centre, made the headlines.
“The Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre is a fantastic building, and people think it’s great but, we should remember, it nearly didn’t happen,” says Colr. Coyle.
The Dungiven man was bitterly disappointed when unionists failed to support a move to award Freedom of the Borough to clerics Rev. David Armstrong and Fr. Kevin Mullan. However, Colr. Coyle is pleased one of the last acts agreed by councillors was their unanimous backing for the same move to the local St. Vincent de Paul and The Salvation Army.
Sinn Fein’s Sean McGlinchey said being mayor was the highlight of his time as a Limavady councillor, despite the controversy surrounding the appointment. Mr. McGlinchey served 18 years in Long Kesh for his part in the IRA car bomb in Coleraine in 1973, which killed six people. After his release he said he regretted what happened and, had he known that innocent people would die that day, he would never have done it. He reiterated those comments after the DUP’s Gregory Campbell criticised his appointment as mayor in Limavady, calling on him to apologise.
During his year as mayor, Colr. McGlinchey said he enjoyed meeting so many people from different backgrounds, in particular, children with special needs and being able to highlight the challenges they face. Regarding local politics in the chamber, he says the relationship between councillors has been poor.
“I really got my eyes opened as far as community politics goes,” says Colr. McGlinchey. “It was very disappointing and, to be honest, I don’t see it improving in the new Causeway Council.”
TUV Councillor Boyd Douglas - who served with the Ulster Unionist Party and the United Unionist Coalition - says he is proud to have served 17 years on Limavady Council and, in particular, of his work in local planning matters. He says he doesn’t regret anything from his time on Limavady Council, including his actions which brought proceedings to a standstill when he displayed a miniature Union flag on his desk inside the Council chamber. He said the display was to show his opposition to Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey being mayor.
“He is a convicted terrorist, and I felt it was wrong someone like that should have been allowed to have been mayor,” said Colr. Douglas.
Regarding the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council, Colr. Douglas says he is looking forward to continuing to “representing all the people of the Benbradagh ward”, and encouraging more people to become involved in their community.
It is not known if any event to mark the end of Limavady Borough Council, involving councillors, will take place.
“It’s disappointing Limavady Council is going out with a fizzle rather than with a bit of pizazz,” said Colr. Coyle.
No one from Limavady Borough Council was availble for comment.