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Reverent tributes as highly-respected senior Council officer set to leave role

Seamus McCrory

Glowing tributes were paid to ABC head of Community Development, Seamus McCrory, at a recent Economic Development & Regeneration Committee meeting, following the senior council officer’s decision to step down from his role.

Councillors from across the political spectrum were anxious to convey their appreciation to a prime mover within ABC who played a crucial role during the Covid pandemic, among other major challenges.

Committee chairman, Councillor Kevin Savage said: “It would be remiss of me not to mention that this is Seamus McCrory’s last meeting of the Economic Development & Regeneration Committee before he leaves Council.

“I wouldn’t like to let it pass without saying a few words. I would like to put on record my deepest respect and admiration for Seamus throughout my time as a councillor.

“From the day I started, Seamus has been a source of assistance and advice. He literally answers the phone anytime of the day or night.

“I’ve phoned him and sent him emails, and he gets back to you straight away. His services provided have been exceptional.

“Seamus and the Community Development Department came into their own during the pandemic.

“They led from the front in providing vital community support during very difficult times.

“I don’t think our response would have been as effective, if not for Seamus’s commitment and that of his Department.

“They’ve done amazing work in the field of Community Development, Community Relations, and Minority Inclusion, and they’ve all benefited from Seamus’s work.

“He’ll be a massive loss to this council and difficult to replace, and I wish Seamus and his family all the best for the future.”

Alderman Mark Baxter (DUP, Lagan River DEA) described Mr McCrory as a tireless worker: “It’s a huge matter of regret, Seamus, that you’ll be leaving the council. You’ll leave a huge void, certainly in your department.

“It’s a very close department who work very well. The amount of work (…) is massive and I think sometimes it’s maybe underestimated, even by [committee] members.

“On behalf of our party we’ll be very sorry to see you go, and I mean that very sincerely.

“You’re very meticulous in everything that you do and you’d answer the phone any time of the day or night – you’d also phone us any time of the day or night (laughter).

“You’re leaving the department in good stead, and whoever takes over from you has very big shoes to fill.

“I have no doubt that you will rise to the top again very shortly in whatever path you decide to take next.”

Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon (SDLP, Armagh DEA) explained that even his own children were aware of ‘Seamus’, the tireless council officer: “You’re probably one of the most competent officers that I have ever met in 19 years in local government.

“I would say you enjoyed the trust, the admiration and support of your staff, and the councillors alike.

“It takes a very special set of skills, competencies and attributes to be a local government officer, and it’s not a skill-set that every senior officer has.

“Someone who knows what communities need and what elected members want, and for some reason you always were landed with the difficult or contentious issues, but you took them in your stride, you worked with members and you got a resolution.

“You were always the one who rang out of hours with an update on something or the other, and indeed you were always the one who answered the phone, day or night.

“You led the organisation’s Covid response, and in particular the community support in which you excelled.

“You brought your team around you and it was a huge success, and when I refer to taking calls or making calls out of hours, in fact if I was in the car and the children were with me I would explain ‘You need to be quiet, Daddy’s on a call to do with work’ and [I would hear] ‘Is that Seamus from Council?’

“Because it’s a regular occurrence and even they recognised that it was you that would have been on the phone.

“You’ll be sincerely missed and I hope to see you back here someday in a bigger chair.”

Alderman Paul Berry (Independent, Cusher DEA) said he simply could not believe it when Seamus McCrory told him he had decided to step down from his role.

“When Seamus had given me a courtesy call at the end of last year, I was totally and utterly gutted, and I told him that on the phone,” Ald Berry said.

“I asked the question ‘Who the heck has poached you?’ I just couldn’t believe that we were losing such a capable and trusted officer.

“As someone who has been through local government over 20 years now, I can honestly say that Seamus McCrory was at the top of that list [as] a colleague within Council.

“No disrespect to any of the officers, but nobody’s going to replace Seamus McCrory in my view, because of the man that he was.

“He delivered whatever was asked of him. It might not have been easy but he always spoke the truth, he went straight to the point, whether you liked that point or not.

“He was a doer. As councillors we know who talks and who tries to fob you off, but Seamus wasn’t one of those ones.

“A man who went right through the heart of this council in all his roles, whether it was at Covid, whether it was at that community development level, whether it was the whole Ukrainian thing, it was always on Seamus’s shoulders and he and his team always delivered.

“I honestly thought that you were one of those officers that was even going to go higher, and I hope that one day you will be going higher.

“I think in a way it’s criminal that we’re letting you go, and that’s my own personal view. We shouldn’t be letting it happen because officers like you are hard to come by.”

Alderman Ian Burns (UUP, Banbridge DEA) praised the ABC council officer for being ever present, even during weekends.

“I want to be associated with all the the good wishes towards Seamus. I have been in the council now for 28 years and I’ve never come across an officer who was as diligent at his job.

“We might have shorter meetings, we might have longer weekends as well because we’ll not be getting the phone calls, but we really did appreciate the fact that you took time on a Saturday evening, Saturday morning or whatever to give us information that we needed, and it certainly was appreciated.

“You have a good team there, but every good team needs a good leader and you were that good leader.

“It is a massive loss to this council, someone that will be very hard to replace, if we can replace you, Seamus.”

Councillor Peter Lavery (Alliance, Lurgan DEA) was the final committee member to praise the head of Community Development.

“Seamus is someone who every day came into this building, made a real positive difference to residents.

“None of them maybe will have seen the work that he and his team have done over the years, but it has impacted each and every every resident in this borough.

“The words that I think when I think of Seamus are professionalism and passion, because he really does love the whole community development scheme, and at times he’s been landed with difficult issues as members have mentioned, the Covid and Ukraine and all the rest, yet Seamus was always able to deliver.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to replace Seamus because he did so much for this borough.

“One thing you can say about Seamus is that he really is a leader, he really empowers his team, he is leaving the whole community development field in a very good strong position because of his leadership over the years.

“On behalf of my party group I just [want to] say a massive thank you.”

Mr McCrory thanked the committee members for conveying their appreciation to him in such a heartfelt manner: “I have done my job and the only thing I want to say is thank you very much for your very kind comments. I hope that half of it is deserved.

“It has been my privilege to complete this role and to make our best attempt to put the resources that this department has to improve lives.

“I can’t say thank you enough too for my position in the organisation and for all the support that members have given me.”

As the senior civil servant was treated to a round of applause, Cllr Kevin Savage said: “Thank you members for your kind words for Seamus, I’m sure every word that members said was heartfelt. You really have been that vital in this organisation.”

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