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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Antrim & Newtownabbey Council tribute to 'very proud Rathcoole champion'

Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor Cllr Billy Webb led tributes to DUP Cllr Paul Hamill

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council held a special meeting on Thursday evening in tribute to Macedon DUP Councillor Paul Hamill who died on Tuesday.

Leading tributes was Mayor, Councillor Billy Webb who said that he first met Paul in 2009 when Cllr Hamill was Mayor’s Chaplain adding that they have been friends ever since.

“His concern for the community led him to enter politics. He was elected in 2014 for Macedon and was mayor from 2017 until 2018,” Cllr Webb told colleagues.

“Paul faithfully carried out his duties at hundreds of engagements in every part of the borough with great dignity and pride.

“He always demonstrated passion and commitment to improve the lives of local young people. He was a great supporter of the Prince’s Trust and lifelong member of the Boys’ Brigade.

“Many of us saw Paul as a friend regardless of party differences. He treated everyone with kindness and always had time to listen and to smile. His decency shone through in everything he did.”

He went to exrtend his condolences on behalf of the Mayor’s Office and Alliance group to Paul’s wife Ruth daughters Grace and Sarah, mother Ann, sister Wendy and brother-in-law Colin.

DUP group leader Glengormley councillor Alderman Phillip Brett said:

“Paul was much more than a colleague. He was a real friend and our rock.”

He went on to talk about the impact of Paul, whom he described as a “true gentleman”, on the lives of “all he encountered”.

One of Ald Brett’s “greatest honours”, he told members, was to name him as First Citizen of the borough, an office which he discharged with “impeccable diligence and determination”.

However he stated that it was his “beloved Rathcoole” where he was “champion for the most vulnerable and those most in need”.

Ulster Unionist group leader Glengormley councillor Alderman Mark Cosgrove commented that Cllr Hamill’s constituents were proud to have him as their representative.

Ald Cosgrove described him as a “mayor for everyone”, adding that his “outreach was a lesson to us all”.

Dunsilly Sinn Fein Councillor Henry Cushinan recalled an occasion during which Cllr Hamill hosted an event for a Gaelic team and another event during which he spoke Irish.

“He met the girls. He was more than welcoming and they really enjoyed the evening,” he recalled.

Cllr Cushinan went on to say: “May he rest in peace” in Irish.

SDLP group leader Councillor Roisin Lynch said: “Paul was always a pleasure to work with inside and outside our committee work. He was always a genuinely good person on every encounter.

“Paul’s commitment to the residents of Antrim and Newtownabbey was demonstrated widely in his term as mayor. Paul worked for everyone and was highly thought of.”

Veteran Ulster Unionist Alderman Frazer Agnew paid tribute to Cllr Hamill’s Christian faith and his role as a pastor with Belfast City Mission noting that he had “great knowledge of God’s word”.

Commenting on the business of politics, fellow Threemilewater Councillor Tom Campbell (Alliance) said:

“There was never any hostility or animosity with Paul. He treated all with the utmost courtesy. Paul was a bridge builder. Paul always presented with a smile of welcome and genuine interest in others. He was popular with his constituents and in the chamber.”

Macedon Councillor Robert Foster, an Ulster Unionist representative, said:

“I am still in shock at the sudden passing of Paul.”

He told the chamber that he has known Paul for more than 30 years since they worked together at Bombardier and quipped that when Paul was mayor, he was his apprentice.

He went on to say that Paul was a “great engineer and a man of great faith”.

He noted that the effort Paul out into his annual Boys’ Brigade display was a “joy to behold”.

“Paul always prompted me to have a go at council. He wanted his community to have diverse representation. He was a very proud Rathcoole man.”

Airport councillor Alderman Paul Michael told the meeting that he had the benefit of Cllr Hamill’s guidance when he succeeded him as mayor.

“He was not afraid to step into any corner of our borough,” he noted.

SDLP Glengormley Councillor Noreen McClelland stated:

“Paul was a humble, gentle, hard-working family man of great faith.

“Paul has been a friend to many during his life and will continue to be as he is fondly remembered.”

Ballyclare Ulster Unionist Councillor Vera McWilliam, who was Cllr Hamill’s deputy when he was mayor, described him as a “truly Christian person who was loved by all, who had time for everyone and a sympathetic ear”.

She recalled fondly that during his term of office, his daughters became known as the “Mayorettes”.

Antrim DUP councillor Alderman John Smyth said that he considered Paul Hamill to have been “a great friend and colleague” and a man who “brought many people to faith”.

Party colleague Airport Councillor Matthew Magill commented:

“I came into council in 2014 along with Paul. Ever since, I have grown very fond of Paul. He was a great friend to me.

“There is a lot we will all miss about Paul – his infectious smile and remember him raising his eyebrows across the chamber. He was a wee man with a big heart.”

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