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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Robes reminder leads to right row in Council Chamber

A reminder for councillors to collect their civic robes ahead of attendance at Remembrance Sunday services prompted an outburst over storage arrangements at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Monday.

The Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, asked members to pick up their robes at the end of the meeting which took place at the council’s headquarters at The Braid in Ballymena.

Alderman Billy Ashe MBE, a Carrickfergus Castle DUP representative, said that he would be taking his robe back to Carrick “where it belongs” and keeping it there.

“The last time we were standing waiting to go to the cenotaph in Carrickfergus, the robes had been sent back to Ballymena.

“I don’t understand the relevance of bringing them up here to hang there in that hall when I can hang it up in the town hall in Carrickfergus. Yes I can get it tonight but they are asking me to bring it straight back. I’m not driving up here to bring a robe back,” he stated.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that members have to run around looking for their robes.”

Bannside TUV Alderman Stewart McDonald said:

“Regarding the Ballymena service, do we really need a bus? Can we not take the robes tonight and go and meet at the memorial garden. We don’t need a bus at any other service. Why does Ballymena need a bus?”

Philip Thompson, acting chief executive, said he would be happy to review the bus provision, adding that he understood that it had been the arrangement put in place.

“If members wish to dispense with the bus we can go down that route,” he noted.

The mayor pointed out that the council does have elderly members.

Ald McDonald said that Larne and Carrick “do not have buses and seem to cope OK”.

The mayor asked if they were not driving to the cenotaph.

Larne Lough DUP Cllr Gregg McKeen said:

“In Larne, they were in the church hall beside the cenotaph. Could we not just have those arrangements again rather than picking up robes and leaving them back? There is bound to be a way we can do this and work it in.

“The Larne robes left in Smiley and the Carrick robes left in the town hall.”

Braid DUP Cllr Beth Adger MBE stated:

“This last couple of years we didn’t have a bus. We all met round at the memorial park. We took our robes with us from the council meeting and we all met around there, so I don’t see what the big issue is about the bus anyway. We will all make our own way there.”

Ballymena DUP Ald Audrey Wales MBE said:

“Members do have to go to the parade salute at Wellington Street immediately following the cenotaph service, which is why I think the bus was started, so we all go together on the bus from the cenotaph to the salute rather than dandering up the street.”

Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston commented that everyone walks so there is “no need for councillors to be chauffeured in front of the parade”.

Bannside DUP Cllr Tommy Nicholl MBE pointed out:

“This is the time of year for respect, respect for those people who left these shores to fight for our freedom and we just don’t do anything willy-nilly the way we have been doing this year or two.

“I am disgusted at the way these things happen and can I say: has this council lost the respect for members of council who are disabled?”


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