"Box Factory," Road And Port Key To Prosperity
(Part 2)

Acccording to Eunan Crawford, son of the distinguished historian and musician, by the early 90’s “we were the biggest corrugated plant in Ireland. Sales have doubled in the past 20 years. A major factor was entry into the European market. The Irish Republic opened up to us.

“If our annual usage of paper was rolled out and joined together, it would stretch two and a half times around the Equator. We make nearly two million boxes per week, - which is 16 times what we made in the mid-50’s. We now employ 240 people, - in 1966 it was 464. Probably more than 2000 have been employed altogether. To start up new would require an investment in excess of £20 million.”

And Eunan Crawford added: “I have enjoyed my years in the `box factory. I am grateful to have worked with such good people, in a caring company. I have made many good friends; some have moved on. And I met my wife in the `box factory`, - which is a bonus!”

Meanwhile, Jim McCart had been canvassing support for an extensive development plan for the local harbour, which he believes is essential, but for which planning approval has been blocked by “various interests", some local, resulting in the loss of a 75 per cent European grant.

“This could inhibit future progress for the port. It is my hope that common sense and realism will prevail, for it is important that the potential of our harbour is realised immediately by everyone in Warrenpoint and further afield. The harbour cannot cater for larger vessels. Over 300 people are employed directly, as well as another 300 ancillary workers,” he warned.

Indeed, this former chairman of Warrenpoint Urban Council, as well as Newry and Mourne district council, lobbied strenuously for construction of the dual-carriageway between Newry and the `Point, as well as development of a modern harbour at Warrenpoint, with the closure of Newry port in the mid-60’s.

Elected to the local Urban Council in 1964, as a member of the Irish Labour Party, he became chairman three years later, retaining the post until the council was abolished in 1971. However, he pointed out that, hampered by lack of funds, the council was unable to proceed with a new sewage disposal unit, development of the promenade or the widening of the Upper Dromore Road.

Both the beginning and the end of his period as council chairman were dogged by controversy. He was expelled from the Irish Labour Party for refusing to obey an instruction to boycott meetings of the council in 1971, as a protest against Internment. Incidentally, his opposite number on Newry Urban Council, Tommy Markey, had earlier been expelled from the Irish Labour Party, because he took the salute of the Irish Guards.

Jim McCart suffered a vote of no confidence by the Urban Council in 1967, because he gave his casting vote to an applicant for a transfer to a larger house, who was a fellow Irish Labour councillor, rather than someone with a bigger family. Those who voted no confidence, stressed that it was not against the chairman personally, but his party’s action. He was persuaded to resume the post.

Finally, in 1971, pressure was being put on nationalist-controlled councils, all over the north, to boycott council meetings, in protest against Internment. Only three members turned up for Warrenpoint Urban Council meeting that October, - Jim McCart, Peter Grant and Dominic O’Hare.

Then, when the monthly meeting was called for November, councillor McCart once more presided. But a group of councillors, S. Mallon, L. Trainor, E. McNeill, B. McEvoy, C. McGreevey and J. Carvill arrived. It was proposed that the meeting be adjourned, and that no further meetings be held until the end of internment. The motion was passed. As the members left the Town Hall, a crowd had gathered and much hostility was directed at councillors McCart, Grant and O’Hare.

However, two years later, when Newry and Mourne district council was formed, Jim McCart, - who had joined the S.D.L.P., - was elected, retaining his seat seven times until retirement. He was elected chairman, fifteen years ago. Those whom he believes played a major role were the first Chief Executive, Paddy O’Hagan; John McEvoy, - “an outstanding chairman;” Arthur Lockhart, Willie Russell, Tommy McGrath, John Bell and Arthur Ruddy; also such officials as Joe Morgan and Raymond Turley.

Far from resting on his laurels, this energetic public representative is on the boards of St Mark’s High School, St Dallan’s and Dromore Road primary schools; Newry College of Further Education, and the Local Government Staffs Commission. He is a director of Newry and Mourne Co-operative and Southern Group enterprises, as well as chairman of the Joint Industrial Commission for Local Government Chief Executives.

Married to Marie McCormick from Upper Chapel Street, Newry, niece of the late Mickey Griffen, they have four children, - Anne, School Librarian with the S.E.L.B; John, a Principal Social Worker in West Belfast; Eileen, Deputy Director of Administration with Newry and Mourne district council; also Dr Cormac, and Bronagh, a solicitor with the civil service in Belfast.

Certainly, the community at the `Point have reason to salute the immense dedication and commitment of Jim McCart, who has been deeply involved in transforming the town from the depression of the 50’s to its present prosperity. Who will start a campaign to change its name to “McCartstown?”

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© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008