Cllr Timothy Gaston, Deputy Mayor for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council:
As we approach Christmas, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the people across Mid and East Antrim a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful 2016.
Over the last year, it has been a very remarkable and challenging time for our people, and with Christmas approaching I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the past year.
At the age of 26, it was very humbling for me to be elected as the first Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim back in April. There are so many highlights from the last year that it’s impossible to list them all, but I have to give special mention to a few – welcoming Steve Davis to the Braid for a civic reception following Northern Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2016, celebrating Armed Forces Day, Opening Carfest 2015, hosting a Mayoral Reception for the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland Mr McNie and his wife.
It has been an honour and a privilege to represent Mid and East Antrim and over the past months. I’ve been overwhelmed by the warmth and welcome shown by the people of our Borough, as I’ve toured around Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and beyond.
I’ve been amazed by the great community spirit that exists in Mid and East Antrim. Special mention has to go to the ongoing success of the award winning Ahoghill in Bloom team. I was delighted to be in attendance in the summer when Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant presented the community with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – a well-deserved award.
In my Deputy Mayor role, it was particularly humbling to remember the sacrifice of the fallen on Remembrance Sunday, and lay the wreath in Ballymena and Cullybackey on behalf of Council.
We can’t deny that it’s been a tough year for the local economy, especially for Ballymena. With the devastating news about Michelin, many families face an uncertain time ahead, and are in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas time. As Deputy Mayor, I want our council to ensure we are doing all we can to help grow the local economy and create jobs in Ballymena. I want to see the council use its new powers of planning and community planning to really make a difference and support our local businesses.
We have to remember, even among the bad news, Ballymena is still a great place and has strong companies and industries – some great examples are Wrightbus, who continue to be a world leader with their iconic buses, Gilmore Engineering, our hard working farmers and Raceview Mill in Broughshane, which has been a real success, continuing to expand and grow. I want to support and encourage all the businesses across Mid and East Antrim as they move into 2016.
I’ve also been able to use my time as Deputy Mayor to raise funds for Action Cancer, a charity close to my heart. I was speechless at the generosity of the donations which totalled over £1,600, and would like to thank everyone who contributed.
As we approach Christmas, it’s been a busy time for our young people, and I’ve been very impressed by the talent which has been on stage at the various carol services and school plays. As Deputy Mayor I’ve attended quite a number and I was particularly impressed by the performance of Cambridge House Grammar School and Dunclug Primary. Certainly it has to be said that Mid and East Antrim has certainly got talent!
Christmas is a time for getting together with family and friends, and remembering the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Saviour. It’s also a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves, and I’d ask you all to share a thought for those who are alone, sick or elderly at this time of year.
I’d like to send my best wishes for a very Happy Christmas to all and a peaceful and prosperous 2016.