ONE of Strabane’s longest serving councillors has passed away.
James O’Kane sat as an independent councillor with Strabane District Council since he was first elected back in 1982. In May 2014 he announced his decision to stand down from politics.
Speaking at the time of his retirement Cllr O’Kane said the decision not to stand had been a tough one, but at the age of 81, the right one.
“The years are going on and I felt it was time to leave the way open for younger people,” he said.
“It was a tough decision because a lot of people have been saying if I’m not standing then they are not voting. So it was a very tough decision but with my wife gone, I felt the time was right.”
James O’Kane had easily retained his position since he was first elected and topped the polls again in 2011 with 859 votes. He also served as chairman of the council for a period of time.
As well as his tireless work on behalf of his constituents, part of his enduring popularity has been down to his low budget, but always effective, campaign style. The sight of James and his brother Michael erecting handmade election posters bearing the memorable ‘Use your brain, vote O’Kane’ slogan have been part and parcel of Strabane politics for generations.
“As an independent I worked for all classes and creeds and every problem was my problem. As my late father used to say, if you can’t do someone a good turn then don’t do them an ill one and I always kept that with me.
“It didn’t matter who or what you were or if you were in my ward or not, I would never turn anyone away.”
Reflecting on his career in politics, James O’Kane said he regarded every election as a high point and the death of his wife, Frances (who died in 2011), as his greatest low. He said that while he would no longer be a councillor, he would remain as active as possible for the people of Strabane.
Mr O’Kane is survived by his daughters Majella and Dolores, and sons Declan and Jeffrey.
•Funeral leaving his home at 7pm on Wednesday, January 13 to St Mary’s Church Melmount, for Requiem Mass on Thursday (Jan 14) at 2pm.
In accordance with current restrictions the house and funeral will be private to family only.
The funeral Mass can be viewed live via the Parish webcam www.melmountparish.com/webtv.html.