SDLP Ballymena Councillor PJ McAvoy has been elected the borough’s first ever nationalist mayor.

Speaking after his election, Cllr McAvoy said: “It is a great honour to have been elected mayor for all of Ballymena and that is the mayor I intend to be – inclusive, progressive, putting aside the divisions of the past and looking to the future.

“I am particularly delighted that my mother, who is 92, has lived long enough to see this event.

“I know that my election is something of a milestone for the borough, but I believe that that is a mark of how far we have come these last few years.

“I look forward to the year ahead – representing each and every citizen of the borough and working with both them and my council colleagues to build on Ballymena’s position as a major hub of business and tourism.”

Congratulating Cllr McAvoy, party leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said: “PJ’s election is due reward for a long and distinguished career representing the people of Ballymena and I know he will do an excellent job as mayor.

“I wish him a very successful year of office.”

SDLP Group Leader on Ballymena Borough Council, Cllr Declan O’Loan, said: “It is a tremendous step forward for the council to unanimously elect an SDLP mayor.

“This shows tremendous leadership on the part of the council and will be greatly welcomed by the people of the borough.”