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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Mid and East Antrim to develop community garden for veterans

A section of Curran Park in Larne is to be designated as a community garden for veterans as part of a Defence Gardens Scheme.

The Defence Gardens Scheme, a network of gardens, provides horticulture therapy to help manage mental health and well-being. It works with veterans’ charities to  deliver nature-based therapy.

Mid and East Antrim councillors were told at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee last month that the local authority had received a request to develop a Defence Gardens Scheme  in the borough.

Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen proposed the council agree to the request describing it as “an excellent idea”, minutes said. The minutes also indicated he believed that the scheme would “enhance the park”.

The proposal was seconded by Carrickfergus Castle Ulster Unionist Cllr Robin Stewart. It was agreed the council would develop a section of Curran Park as a community garden as part of the Defence Gardens Scheme.

Commenting on the scheme, the council’s Veterans’ Champion, Carrickfergus Castle Alderman Billy Ashe MBE said:

"I believe this project gives veterans and their family an opportunity to get together, build upon their horticultural skills, and interact in a safe and secure environment with like-minded people. They will nurture and support one another and make a contribution to the local area.

“There are a number of defence gardens around the province all supported by veterans.”

These are located in Coleraine, Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn and Enniskillen.

Ald Ashe takes over the position of Veterans’ Champion from party colleague Alderman John Carson who was suspended as a Ballymena representative for three months after an adjudication hearing by the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards in October.

Acting Commissioner Ian Gordon ruled that Ald Carson had breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by making an “abusive comment” on Facebook in April 2021.

The comment was described as a reference to the then Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Deputy Leader of Sinn Fein.


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