May's passing is 'the end of an era'

May Steele MBE JP.
May Steele MBE JP.

Tributes have been paid to the Ulster Unionist Party’s honorary President May Steele MBE JP, who has died at the age of 83.

Mrs Steele, who lived in Brown's Bay, Islandmagee, had been in failing health for some time.

May Steele was given the Honorary title of President by then party leader Mike Nesbitt (above) in 2016.

May Steele was given the Honorary title of President by then party leader Mike Nesbitt (above) in 2016.

Born May Beattie in Larne, she was synonymous with the Unionist Party in County Antrim since the 1950s, holding many official positions within the party locally, and was a long serving party officer and Chair of the Ulster Womens’ Unionist Council.

UUP MLA for East Antrim, John Stewart said: “May Steele, in many ways, was the Ulster Unionist Party in East Antrim for seven decades. Although she had been in failing health in recent times, she still made a point of trying to get out to attend meetings and conferences, right up last November. Her passing is the end of an era and a huge loss to the party. I will cherish the memory of her help and guidance and extend my condolences to her family circle in Larne and Islandmagee."

Current Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Maureen Morrow also paid tribute to Mrs Steele. “May was such a stalwart and in many ways the Ulster Unionist Party was her life," she said.

"She just loved going to events and conferences and talking politics. I know in her earlier years she was incredibly active in campaigning, especially at election times. I really appreciate all the advice and encouragement she gave me, especially when I first stood for elected office in 2011 and she was a great promoter of women in public life. She knew so many people from all over the country and will be greatly missed by all her friends and family.”

May, who in her working life was a manager for Royal Mail, was the widow of Sam Steele, a former councillor in Carrickfergus and later deputy Mayor of Larne. May herself was a UUP representative between 1996 and 1998 on the NI Forum, the body established in the negotiations which led to the signing of the Belfast Agreement.

She narrowly missed out on election to the Assembly after the agreement, but was known as a loyal supporter of then leader David Trimble and subsequent party leaders. She was present in Oslo when Mr Trimble was jointly awarded the Noble Peace Prize with John Hume. She was given the Honorary title of President by then party leader Mike Nesbitt in 2016 as recognition of her many years of voluntary service to the Ulster Unionist Party.

May Steele was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1990 was awarded an MBE in the New Years’ honours in 2000 for political and public service. She was a committed member of the 2nd Islandmagee Presbyterian Church and previously served on the board of Governors at Kilcoan Primary School.