McAvoy to stand down from Council

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Veteran local politician and the first nationalist to be elected Mayor of Ballymena, SDLP Alderman PJ McAvoy is to stand down from council.

It was also announced on Sunday night, following a Ballymena SDLP Selection Convention in the town, that he will not run for the new Mid and East Antrim Council at the elections in May.

Alderman McAvoy, who was elected to Ballymena Borough Council in 1985, will remain on the Council until it winds down in March 2015, having served a continuous 30 years as a councillor.

Sitting councillor Declan O’Loan and newcomer Eugene Reid were selected to represent the SDLP in the Ballymena District Electoral Area.

PJ McAvoy said: “It has been an honour to have served the people of Ballymena and the SDLP for all of these years. It was the high point to be elected unanimously as the first SDLP Mayor of Ballymena and undoubtedly the high point of that year was the award of the Freedom of the Borough to Liam Neeson. I greatly enjoyed my year as Mayor and am pleased that I was recognised as doing the job on behalf of all the people of Ballymena.”

Council colleague Declan O’Loan said: “It is a little bit of history to see PJ announcing that he will be standing down from Council. He is a Ballymena man to his roots and is very popular in the town. He has served the Council, the SDLP and the people with distinction. He has earned a long and happy retirement when that arrives next year.”

Cllr O’Loan said he was pleased to have been selected as a May election candidate, stating: “There is a need for a strong SDLP voice on the new Council and I hope to contribute to that.”

Fellow candidate, Ballymena native, Eugene Reid, who is current chair of Ballymena SDLP and vice-chair of Ballymena Policing and Community Safety Partnership, said: “I am keen to follow in the footsteps of dedicated local politicians like PJ McAvoy by representing the interests of the nationalist people of Ballymena who have Social Democracy as their core beliefs.

“I believe strongly that a new generation of politicians need to step up to the challenges of the 21st Century and reconnect with those who consider that the big issues are not being addressed.”