Identity crisis for Mid and East Antrim councillors

Cllr Jim Brown. INCT 15-755-CON
Cllr Jim Brown. INCT 15-755-CON

Councillors appear to be suffering from an identity crisis, as they acclimatise to their roles on the new super council.

Members were at loggerheads in Larne council chamber after the Broughshane branch of the Royal British Legion invited the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Ballymena councillors to attend the annual Battle of the Somme Service.

But Cllr Jim Brown took umbrage at the invitation and felt all councillors – as representatives of the new Mid and East Antrim borough – should have been asked to attend.

Speaking at the latest meeting of the policy and resources committee, the Carrick Castle member said the council should not “perpetuate the divisions” between the legacy councils of Larne, Ballymena and Carrickfergus.

He added: “How does this (invitation) fall into there being no Ballymena anymore?

“We can’t have it both ways. It is either an invite to the council or not.”

But Coast Road Cllr Gordon Lyons disagreed and believed that, while councillors represent the entire borough, they should still retain their “own identities” for their respective areas.

“It is my opinion that organisations should have the freedom to invite whoever they want,” the DUP man added.

In response, Cllr Brown replied: “I am not suggesting we don’t accept this invitation.

“I am saying that in future it should be encouraged that any member should be able to say yes or no to an invitation.”

Ballymena town representative John Carson concluded: “As a member of the Broughshane branch of the Legion, I don’t think that anyone who turns up at the event will be turned away.”