Fellow Councillors in tributes to Eamonn McCann as he steps down

Councillors in Derry & Strabane have tribute to People Before Profit Councillor Eamonn McCann who announced on Monday that he was stepping down as a councillor due to health issues.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:14 pm
Eamon McCann with (the late) Johnny White, Dermott McClenaghan and Tommy McCourt in 2004. (Picture by Hugh Gallagher)

During Chairperson’s Business at the recent Governance & Strategic Planning Committee meeting, Chair UUP Alderman Derek Hussey said: “I’ve been approached by a Member with regards to an item. I did tell the Members I would be mentioning it myself.

“We were surprised when we heard Councillor McCann would be standing down. He is not a member of this committee but as we all know he has quite often expressed his opinions through this committee.

“I, on a personal level, would like to wish Councillor McCann the very best going forward with the health problem that has been identified.”

Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle then spoke saying: “I’m sure many people would be shocked it was me that contacted you about this but I think this is the first opportunity any of us will have on record to react to the news about Eamonn stepping down.

“I don’t always agree with Eamonn and haven’t done on a range of things for many years. I want to pay tribute to Eamonn because he is someone that is well known for being a fantastic orator, for being someone that can light up a discussion about the most mundane things and we have seen it at this Council he has never changed his spots and that is something that is rare nowadays.

“He’s always stood up for the little person, the wee man and wee women, and whilst I don’t agree with everything he stands for, boy did he stand for them. I want to wish him and his family all the very best.

“It was right to take the opportunity to pay tribute to someone who is held by many people in the city and beyond in the highest esteem.”

SDLP Councillor John Boyle joked that he thought ‘perhaps we would have waited until the Full Council meeting and we could embarrass Councillor McCann by being present to hear us all paying glowing tribute to him’.

He continued: “What can you say about Eamonn that hasn’t already been said before and will be said in the future. As a Councillor in the same DEA as Eamonn, and as someone who effectively grew up as a little boy watching Eamonn doing what Eamonn does and does best, I suppose the news was quite overwhelming.

“I was listening to the radio and the tributes paid to him but Eamonn’s not dead and I don’t think he is going anywhere and that’s something very important to reflect upon.

“I don’t think Eamonn’s voice will be silenced because he has decided through the challenges of health to step back from the public role. I expect I’ll be hearing from Eamonn and the rest of us will too.

“I would just like to lend my voice to all those tributes on behalf of the SDLP. Eamonn has been a great friend, a real motivator in this city and across this island for generations.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy added her thoughts on Councillor McCann’s announcement.

“Eamonn is someone who has always been there in terms of my life and the political sphere. He does deserve the recognition. I agree with Cllr Boyle that he’s not going anywhere. He might not be sitting in the Chamber but I can’t imagine Eamonn McCann being silent for any length of time.

“He’s always been a huge campaigner on human rights, LGBT, environmental issues and Mobuoy and I can’t see him letting that go either.”

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock joined other Members sharing their thoughts.

“Eamonn’s politics were very different to my own but Eamonn is one of a kind,” she said.

“Eamonn was certainly one of the greatest orators I think we have come across in this Chamber, certainly for a very long time and I think the lively debates he led, I think we will miss those.

“We haven’t heard the last of him I’m sure but we do wish him well in the future.”

Independent Paul Gallagher added that ‘Eamonn has been involved in politics for a very long time’ and that perhaps he wouldn’t appreciate the tributes.

“You know the old saying ‘a week is a long time in politics’. Anytime I saw Eamonn in the Chamber he was put down, isolated, had his mic switched off, called many a name and put down and the minute he gives up his chair, he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

“I’m not sure if he would appreciate that because his politics was always that of resistance and that’s the way I think he should go out of the Chamber – with resistance. But hey a week is a very long time in politics!”

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly felt Cllr McCann would be ‘embarrassed by all the glowing tributes.’

He added: “Whilst Eamonn is much loved and respected he does have these enemies out there. This man spent a lifetime in politics and he has stuck to his guns and I have respect for him. I’m sure when he leaves the Chamber, that Council Chamber, without comrade McCann it’s going to lose a lot of character.”

It is expected there will be further tributes paid to Councillor McCann at Full Council on March 25.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter