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Tributes flow after death of veteran unionist councillor Jack McKee

By Noel McAdam

Tributes have been paid to veteran unionist politician Jack McKee, who has died.

The veteran Larne councillor was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly from 1982-1986.

He was first elected to Larne Borough Council when the framework of 26 councils was established in 1973, and resigned just before the new 11 merged councils came into operation in April this year.

For more than 34 years he was a stalwart member of the DUP, but resigned and joined rival Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice in 2007 after the power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein that saw devolution restored.

He described the Rev Ian Paisley's decision to go into Stormont with Sinn Fein like "somebody had reached in and pulled the very heart out of you".

The TUV gave a special presentation to Mr McKee at its annual conference last year to mark his retirement.

Saying he had been "deeply saddened" by Mr McKee's passing, Mr Allister said yesterday: "Jack was a unique man of the people for whom nothing was too much trouble. Even in his latter years of ill-health Jack went way beyond the call of duty in serving the people of Larne, a town he loved so deeply.

"Fearless in his defence of unionism and unafraid to often stand alone, it was a great privilege to have him as a TUV councillor till his well-deserved retirement last year."

There were tributes from former DUP colleagues as well, including East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, who said: "Although we had political differences over the last few years we continued to have a very cordial relationship. To me he was not just a colleague, but a friend, and he will be missed.

"Jack was a founding member who served during some of the most difficult years of the Troubles and faced threats from IRA terrorists as a result of the stand that he took. However, he would not let that deter him from doing his job. The votes that he received in successive elections demonstrated the esteem in which he was held."

Extending the sympathy of the East Antrim DUP association, MLA Gordon Lyons said even though they were in rival parties Mr McKee was "very encouraging to me. That characteristic kindness is why he will be missed by so many".

And his TUV successor on the new Mid and East Antrim Council, Ruth Wilson, added: "Jack was an amazing human being. He was an object lesson in what it meant to serve the local community."

Condolences were sent to Mr McKee's wife Joan, his children and wider family. His brother Bobby was also a Larne Borough councillor, who lost both his legs in a car bomb.

Belfast Telegraph


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