Archives For Ballymoney

Diane Dodds

Ian Paisley MP has this week welcomed the news that a significant number of local projects have benefited from the Big Lottery Funds’ ‘Awards for All’ programme.
There were in fact eight different groups across Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballybogey who were successful in their applications to the scheme.
In Ballymena the North Ballymena Community Cluster received £6527. The Community Cluster represents and supports a number of voluntary and community groups in the north Ballymena area. They are using the grant to run a series of activities that will bring older people together such as lunches, gardening, arts, crafts and away trips.
The Ballymena Substance Users Support Group were awarded £8511. The group supports people affected by drug and alcohol misuse in the town. The grant is being used for training that will increase the support they can provide to the group’s members, equipment and activities such as cookery classes.
Mr Paisley commented “Substance abuse is something that we do everything we can to eliminate from the area and we have a responsibility to protect users and help them to overcome their addictions. The Support Group are an exceptionally worthy recipient of Big Lottery funding.”
The Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum were also awarded over £8000 to help them with the services they offer to the ethnic minorities in Ballymena. The project will provide bi-lingual interpreters to signpost members to support and information services, as well as supporting the group’s users to integrate into the local community.
Rasharkin Community Association received £3596 to help them provide a range of social activities for local residents. They are using the grant for a programme of events, which will include hip hop dancing, floral art and table tennis, which will be promoted at an open evening to mark the community centre’s re-opening.
Ballymena Academy also received £8000 to go towards purchasing new outdoor gym equipment that will be accessible to pupils, parents and the wider community.
Two grants were also awarded to Ballymoney organisations and one in Ballybogey.
Fuse FM is a community radio station in Ballymoney who were awarded £10,000. The grant is to be used to bring local people together through two fun days, one in winter and one in summer as well as a Scottish ceilidh.
The town’s Bowling Club also received £10000 to go towards improvements to the club building to allow wider community use, while the Ballybogey over 50’s Club received £9318 to provide classes and social outings for older people in the community. The grant will specifically cater for trips, craft and community classes as well as a monthly luncheon club.
Ian Paisley added “I cannot stress enough how important a role the Big Lottery Fund play in allowing these wonderful programs to function. The services that these grants afford the people of North Antrim are truly priceless and once again my gratitude goes out to both the lottery and the group co-ordinators who display such invaluable dedication to their local communities through these various initiatives.”

Ian Paisley MP was in attendance at a gala dinner at the weekend at the Royal Court Hotel in Portrush hosted by the Robert Quigg V.C. Commemoration Society. The event was the most recent of a series of fundraising events to generate the funding for a memorial statue to the Victoria Cross recipient in his home town of Bushmills.
Speaking at the event Mr Paisley commented “I am a huge supporter of the Commemoration Society and the work they do to ensure that our most gallant of heroes has a lasting memory and legacy in this area.”
In a helpful coincidence the dinner was held just days after the most recent awarding of a Victoria Cross to Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey, who is now the only living recipient of the medal after his bravery in rescuing an infantry soldier and mounting an offensive on Taliban insurgents during a mission in August 2013, eliminating 11 Taliban members in the process.
The evening was hosted by Paul Clarke MBE and had various speakers including the Society Chairman Leonard Quigg, the great nephew of Private Quigg. Mr Quigg received his award for his outstanding bravery in the First Day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 were he saved no fewer than seven of his injured comrades in 1916.

The North Antrim MP concluded “It was an honour to be part of this wonderful event. The fact that 160 people were in attendance tonight shows the depth of feeling of gratitude in this area to Private Quigg almost 100 years after his acts of heroism in World War One. The statue will provide a lasting legacy in this town of its highest acclaimed resident. I spoke in parliament this week about exploring new ways in which we as UK citizens and indeed Members of Parliament can pay a more significant tribute to Victoria Cross recipients such as Private Quigg. I look forward with anticipation to pursuing various ways of increasing our recognition and commemoration.”

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.

Ian Paisley won the Northern Ireland MP of the Year Award at the Political and Public Life Awards in the House of Commons last night

Ian Paisley won the Northern Ireland MP of the Year Award at the Political and Public Life Awards in the House of Commons last night

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.”

Ian Paisley MP has called on the House of Commons to do more to celebrate the actions of those military personnel who have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Mr Paisley’s request comes off the back of Wednesday’s announcement that Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey is to be awarded the medal in recognition of his extraordinary bravery in Afghanistan, becoming only the 15th soldier to be honoured with a Victoria Cross since the 2nd World War.

The North Antrim MP made reference to Private Robert Quigg from Bushmills who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his “most conspicuous bravery” at the Battle of the Somme.

The MP commented “Tomorrow night in North Antrim we will be celebrating the life and times of Private Quigg who in 1916 won a Victoria Cross for conspicuous valour at the Somme. Yesterday we read the wonderful news of Lance Corporal Leakey who has received the most recent V.C. Does the Leader of the House plan to do anything here formally to celebrate the achievements of this modern day hero and indeed other heroes who have won the V.C so as parliament can pay respects to these wonderful people?”

William Hague MP who was responding to Ian Paisley’s comments very much supported the request, stating “Mr Paisley draws attention to an individual that I think the whole nation will be extremely proud of. We should give consideration as to how this House should recognise those who receive V.C’s and other medals for valour and gallantry.”

Speaking after the debate the North Antrim MP added “The stories of Lance Corporal Leakey and Private Quigg bear striking resemblances to each other in the sense of disregarding one’s own safety to tend to injured colleagues. While Private Quigg set out in to no mans land seven times to try and rescue his platoon commander, Lance Corporal Leakey Made three trips up and down a hillside towards the Taliban lines to rescue both an injured American colleague and to gather weaponry to mount an offensive on the enemy”.

The Military of Defence this morning described Lance Corporal Leakey as single-handedly changing the course of that entire operation, which was eventually successful with the injured American soldier being the only casualty of the operation whilst eleven insurgents were killed.

Mr Paisley concluded “I am delighted that the Leader of the House agreed with me that more should be done to recognise our military heroes here in parliament and I will actively pursue the calls I have made to ensure that nobody forgets the sacrifices our military make for our freedom in this most poignant of periods of remembrance.”

Electoral Registration Event

February 12, 2015

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Ballymena Electoral Registration Event

Murder of Brian McIlhagga

January 7, 2015

‘I am disgusted at this brutal murder and am appalled at the circumstances. I offer my condolences to Mr McIlhagga’s family and express my deepest sympathies to the extended family circle following this terrible and brutal murder. I encourage anyone who knows anything at all in relation to this horrific murder to contact the police without hesitation.’

Captain Arthur O’Neill

November 10, 2014

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