Archives For Ballycastle
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley was this week awarded the Northern Ireland MP of the Year Award at the Political and Public Life Awards held in Westminster on Thursday evening.
The ceremony, sponsored by Asian Voice was hosted by Keith Vaz MP in Westminster. MPs were nominated by readers of Asian Voice, the largest readership of all the ethnic minority papers across the United Kingdom. The award was presented to the MP by the Leader of the House of Commons the Rt Hon. William Hague MP.
The Political and Public Life Awards, now in their ninth year, are to recognise outstanding contributions by both politicians at all levels of governance as well as those who have excelled in their careers in the public eye.
Previous winners have included the Prime Minister David Cameron MP as Politician of the Year, X-Factor winner Sam Bailey as Breakthrough Woman of the Year as well as Civil Rights Leader Reverend Jesse Jackson and News Anchor Moira Stuart who were both awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Rupanjana Dutta of The Asian Voice explained “The Political and Public Life Awards represent our modest effort to honour a number of outstanding individuals from different communities, walks of life and diverse political persuasions who serve society in their own special way, and who contribute significantly, in whatever they do, towards making a better world today and for the future. These awards are given annually to individuals who have made a special impact in the preceding 12 months, ranging from international politicians to individuals who have made a big difference in their local communities. It is the ninth year the awards have been presented and as in previous years, the competition for awards was extremely strong.
Speaking after receiving his award the MP commented “I’m extremely humbled to receive such an award, especially as it was voted on by members of the public. Having seen the names of previous winners I was very surprised when my name was announced. As MPs our biggest responsibility is to ensure that all sections of our community are represented regardless of background. Having dealt with over 25,000 constituents in my Advice Centre in the past term I would hope that the people of North Antrim would say that I have succeeded in doing just that.”
Keith Vaz MP who hosted the 250 guests at the ceremony in the Members’ Dining Room of the House of Commons commented “I am delighted that Ian has won tonight’s coveted award of Northern Ireland MP of the Year.
This annual ceremony, held in the House of Commons, celebrates the very best in political and public life, and Ian has made an incredible contribution over the last year. He is a much deserved winner after so much hard work, and I am proud that we had the opportunity to recognise his achievements.”
Mr Paisley added “We as Northern Ireland MPs face very unique challenges that the rest of the House wouldn’t be familiar with given our recent past. To be recognised in this capacity is something I cherish greatly.”
On Thursday I attended on behalf of parliament the official memorial and wreath laying ceremony for the first Member of Parliament to die in the Great War on 6 November 1914. It was a very poignant ceremony and was attended by members of the O’Neill family. It took place at the Great War memorial window in Westminster Hall. Mr Speaker preceded and Lord Eames conducted the religious ceremony.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of parliament and the family.
22 MPs lost their lives during the Great War of 1914-18. I was aware that the MP for what was then Mid Antrim (now North and East) was one of those members, as his family plaque and coat of arms is immediately under the gallery as you enter parliament. He was in fact the first member to give up his life in the war.
Arthur O’Neill was born on 19th September 1876 and was the son of Baron Edward O’Neill. His political career at Westminster began in 1910 when he succeeded is uncle Robert Torrens O’Neill as the Member of Parliament for Mid Antrim, a post that he held up until his death. His son was Terence O’Neill. He of course went on the be Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister in the Stormont parliament and whom my father challenged in 1969 over his leadership of unionism. The current North Antrim seat is made up of Captain Arthur O’Neill’s former seat.
It was exactly 100 years ago to the day when Captain O’Neill was killed in Belgium on the 6th November 1914 on Klein Zillebeke ridge on what was one of the most critical days of the first battle of Ypres, as the Germans sought to gain control of the Channel Ports.
The circumstances of his death bring home the horrors of war. He had helped give cover to his squad and was dashing back to them when he was shot along with his colleague. He rolled around injured on the ground and gave more cover to his colleague who was rescued. Germans then came upon Oneill as he lay wounded and one officer stood over him and shot him three times. It was murder on the battle field.
At the memorial service I read a letter sent to his family that Lord Rathcavon let me read detailing his murder is was appalling and a great reminder of the awfulness of war.
Captain O’Neill joined the 2nd Life Guards in 1897 and prior to the Great War he fought valiantly in South Africa, being awarded both the King’s Medal and The Queen’s Medal with three clasps for his bravery between 1899-1900.
I found an extract from the Ballymena Observer dated the 20th November which talks of Captain O’Neill’s death. The letter is written to the family of 2nd Lt W.S Peterson from his fellow soldiers to deliver the news of his death. The following is taken from the letter:
“Our brigade, the regiment itself, were known to stay in the trenches longer than anyone else. Your brother died with two other officers of the regiment, Major Dawney, commanding and Captain Arthur O’Neill, in driving the Germans back; they accomplished this work and in so doing actually saved a great defeat of our arms; the fact is recognised by the General. I heard – I do not vouch for the truth of it – they killed 16 Germans before they were killed.”
It is obvious from the descriptions of his death as well as his decorated military career that Captain O’Neill was a leader of men both on the battlefield and in politics.
I found a biography of Captain O’Neill in the House of Commons library which was a description of his character at the time of his death.
“He was greatly valued for his amiable and stainlessly upright career. If he was less widely known, it was because his modesty and intelligence and sweet temper made less display of the vigour and firmness which he showed later, not only in the South African war and his political life, but also in the patriotic organisation of his native Ulster”
Lest We Forget
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has welcomed the news that Rathlin Island has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the dry stone walls that cover the island.
The walls, which were built from as early as the mid-eighteenth century, have become somewhat derelict in places and have had to be replaced by barbwire fencing in others.
Mr Paisley commented “These walls are a beautiful aspect of Rathlin’s unique appeal to tourists from Northern Ireland and beyond and to receive the much needed funding to restore them back to their original beauty is fantastic news for the Island.”
The project, which will receive investment of over £52,000 from the Heritage Fund will focus on 2.8kms of wall in the Church Bay area and will be used as a skills development programme.
The project will be overseen by a professional drystone wall partisan and will include developing some of the residents’ skills set in order to carry on the maintenance of the wall in the future.
The local MP added “This project will not only be of significant aesthetic benefit but will also help residents of the island through the employment that has been generated in a community where so much work is only seasonal.”
A photographic record of the project and its progression will be kept which hopes to engage local volunteers in participating in the restoration.