Stevenson and McShane are new Council chiefs

A NEW ‘First Citizen’ is in place in both Ballymoney and Moyle Council and each is pledging to work for all and for the good of their respective areas, writes Nevin Farrell.

Ballymoney has one of its youngest ever mayors in place - 41-year-old DUP councillor Ian Stevenson - whilst in Moyle Independent Padraig McShane is in the top position after only three and a half years as a councillor.

In Ballymoney, Cllr Stevenson is joined at the top table by Deputy-Mayor, Cllr Tom McKeown of the Ulster Unionist Party, while in Ballycastle new councillor Sandra Hunter of the UUP is Vice-Chair.

The make-up in the 16-seat Ballymoney Council chamber is 8 DUP; 3 Sinn Fein; 2 Ulster Unionists; 1 SDLP, 1 TUV and 1 Independent.

Speaking to the Times last Thursday - the day after becoming Mayor - Cllr Stevenson said: “It is a real honour to represent the Borough as First Citizen. I have spent most of my life in Ballymoney and have a great love of the people. I have been a councillor for ten years and I am delighted to be Mayor.

“Ballymoney has a lot of things that need done and there are challenges for both me as Mayor and the Council as a whole.

“New facilities are due to open for the good of the people of the Borough but I would like to see the town centre getting fixed up and more businesses coming to the town.

“I am also looking forward to work at the Railway Station being completed.”

The Mayor says he has also two charities he wants to help raise funds for and more details will emerge in the forthcoming weeks.

Mayor Stevenson is a qualified nurse working in a nursing home and has also been a “proud” member of Dunloy Band for 25 years.

He added: “I pledge to work for the whole community of Ballymoney Borough and will be totally fair. I don’t see myself as being above the people but as a servant of the people.”

Over in Moyle and Independent councillor Paudie McShane is the first Chairperson of the new Council in Ballycastle.

He teamed up with two of the other three Independents - Seamus Blaney and new boy Colum Thompson - to form their own grouping and under the D’Hondt proportional power system it meant they were on an equal footing with the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein who each have three councillors.

The way Moyle work it out is that if a grouping is tied on the same number of council seats the number of first preference votes cast for each party comes in to play.

That meant that out of the eight top two positions over the next four years Sinn Fein had first and 6th choices of what year they wanted to take a position; Independents were 2nd and 7th; UUP 3rd and 8th; SDLP 4th and DUP 5th choice.

Sinn Fein opted not to take the Chair this year and the Independents then decided to take it up.

Ulster Unionists will take the top position in year two; Sinn Fein the third year and the SDLP in the fourth year.

The Vice-Chair this year goes to the Ulster Unionists and already there is a position of responsibility for their new councillor Sandra Hunter who has hit the ground running at Sheskburn House.

Vice-Chair in year two will be the option of the DUP; the Independents will be Vice-Chair in year three and Sinn Fein will be Vice-Chair in year four.

Cllr McShane has also wasted little time in getting into the top position at the Council. He came in to the Council as a Sinn Fein councillor just three and a half years ago during a by-election in the Glens electoral area.

He then parted company with the party and sat as an Independent before moving to the Ballycastle electoral area for this year’s election where he again stood as an Independent and got more first preference votes than the two Sinn Fein councillors in the town.

The Council make-up in Moyle is: 4 Independents; 3 Sinn Fein; 3 Ulster Unionists; 2 DUP; 2 SDLP; 1 Traditional Unionist Voice.

One of the first duties of Chairperson McShane was to pass on his best wishes to outgoing Council Chairperson Independent Price McConaghy who has retired from the Council after more than 50 years service as a public representative.