In one of its final acts before becoming part of Mid & East Antrim, Ballymena Borough Council hosted a gala event to celebrate citizens and groups who have made significant contributions to the life of the Borough.
Drawn from across the community, from business and industry to sports and the arts, 47 individuals and groups have been honoured for their role in making the Borough a better place to live and work during the last four decades.
Nominated by the public, the award winners were presented with a specially commissioned illustration ‘A spring in their step’ by local artist Judith Logan at a special ceremony in the Braid.
Leading the accolades, Ballymena Mayor, Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, said: “Ballymena is a special place and it has been an honour for myself and the Council, both elected members and officers, to serve the people of the Borough.
“This is one of the last official functions of Ballymena Borough Council and it is fitting that we spend it celebrating those who make this such a great place to live and work in. They have made a real difference to our town and villages, and there’s no doubt they will continue to do so as we join the new Mid & East Antrim Borough Council.”
In total, awards were made in eight categories - the arts; business and industry; media and broadcasting; sports; legal services; health; community and charity.
Twelve recipients were recognised for making an exceptional contribution, while 35 received awards which were presented for making an outstanding contribution.
All of the winners have either lived or worked in the Borough and some are household names, including broadcaster Ken Reid, Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill and The Baroness O’Loan, former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
The largest number of recipients was 17 for those involved in giving their time and efforts in their local communities.
Acting Chief Executive of Ballymena Borough Council, Rodger McKnight, said: “Although we are all familiar with the tremendous community spirit which the Borough is well known for, everyone was greatly impressed by the scale and depth of the contributions which so many people have made, often in a voluntary capacity.
“The calibre of the nominations in the community category was exceptional, reflecting a key ambition of the Council over the past 42 years to support local communities.
“Helping regenerate local communities is something we are passionate about with, to use just one example, our Enabling Capital Grants Scheme accepted as best practice across Northern Ireland, and having created 330 jobs and secured over £10m in direct investments in the local area.
“Many of those involved with the scheme have become the bedrock of community development within the Borough and it is great to recognise some of that work.”
Concluding proceedings at The Braid, the Mayor added: “Ballymena Borough has much to be proud of and that is best reflected in those we honour at this ceremony, whose achievements have enriched the life of the Borough and beyond.
“Ballymena has produced some of Northern Ireland’s best known and successful entrepreneurs.
“Our sporting stars have gained success at the highest international levels and our artists have brought colour and depth to life.
“The Recognition Awards acknowledge those who have reached the top of their profession or have improved the lives of thousands through charity and voluntary work.
“This creativity, enthusiasm and passion is something which will now help shape communities on a larger scale as we enter a new and exciting era with Mid & East Antrim Borough Council.”
Ballymena Borough Council held its first meeting in shadow format on 15 June 1973 in Ballymena Town Hall following a reorganisation of Local Government in Northern Ireland.
After 42 years it now merges with Carrickfergus and Larne Borough Councils to form Mid & East Antrim Borough Council which assumes full powers on 1 April 2015.