Elected representatives of Clare County Council paid tribute to their late colleague Mike McKee at the December meeting of the local authority.
Councillors unanimously agreed to adjourn the December Council meeting as a mark of respect to McKee who died at the beginning of the month following a short battle with pancreatic cancer. The Sinn Féin councillor was first elected to the Shannon Town Commissioners in 1985 and was re-elected in every subsequent election until 2009. He returned to politics in 2014 and was elected to Clare County Council, becoming the first Sinn Féin councillor in Clare since 1974.
Mike’s wife, Eileen, his mother Theresa, daughter Jeanette, brother and extended family were in attendance at Monday’s meeting having ing received an invite from the County Council.
“Our meeting, this building and the county is tinged with sadness,” Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) stated as he addressed the gathering. “A feature introduced to the Council meetings twelve months ago was the nameplates, it is sad and poignant that the name of Cllr Mike McKee is no longer in the Chamber,” the Mayor of Clare said. “He constantly championed the underdog”.
Crowe said that Mike was known nationwide and that he “showed real fighting spirit” after receiving a cancer diagnosis. “If I got bad health news in the morning I’d probably walk from this and go back to the family, Mike kept going, his last engagement was to be present in a wheelchair at the opening of our Town Park”. He added, “There won’t be the likes of Mike here again, there will be a co-option, his seat will be filled, his reputation and everything he has brought to Shannon he has left a legacy. We remember him as a politician, as someone who fought the cause”.
Speaking on behalf of his party, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) outlined that there was much more to Mike McKee than politics. “I still am a film buff, when he opened a shop in Shannon I was one of his earliest customers, I always got the best of new movies from him. Mike was an excellent businessman, highly successful and worked in major hotels through the country, he was a DJ for 35 years plus”.
At the Carrigoran Spring Fair, McKee ran events for free and Cllr McMahon stressed of how little fuss Mike made about such acts of kindness. “That was the way he worked, he wanted to help a situation. I suggested to him that he let people know what he was doing, he said the children enjoying themselves was good enough for me”. The Newmarket-on-Fergus representative added, “It’s easy talk in a positive manner about Mike because these are facts and this is true”. He concluded, “Mike will not be forgotten”.
McKee’s fellow Shannon councillor, Gerry Flynn (IND) noted how they served side by side on the Shannon Town Commissioners, Shannon Town Council and Clare County Council. “He was a team player, we had different views but we did our best for the town of Shannon,” Flynn commented as he referred to how the pair split GMA funding with each other for the betterment of the town. He acknowledged Mike was the first elected Mayor of Shannon.
As Cathaoirleach of the Shannon MD, Cllr Flynn confirmed he had requested the turning on of the Christmas lights in the town be refixed to a later date and that he declined the invite as it was “too raw” taking place a day before McKee’s funeral but said he was happy to be informed the McKee family attended.
Cllr John Crowe (FG) expressed his condolences as spokesperson of his party. “I will never forget the day Mike was elected Chairman of the Shannon Municipal District, he was only there a few years, his wife and mother were there on the day and I never saw a man so proud to take on the mantle, he really carried it out to his full ability”.
Mike’s role “in the team” within the Shannon MD was vital according to Cllr Crowe and he emphasised how much craic they had with McKee central to it. “He was a very decent man, I’m delighted to have the honour in serving with him for the last five years, a real team player. He looked after the community. He had such a knowledge of so many different things”.
Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling admitted, “there is a feeling of huge sense of loss with the passing of Mike McKee. One can often say about people that how they treat other people is a very important characteristic, Mike McKee always showed the fullest of respect for all the staff in this organisation, which is a unique characteristic”.