Antrim and Newtownabbey: former mayor Alderman Paul Michael sits as Independent after resigning from Ulster Unionists

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Former Ulster Unionist Alderman Paul Michael BEM took up his seat in the chamber as an Independent when Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council met at Mossley Mill, on Tuesday evening.

Ald Michael, an Airport representative, has resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party after 30 years. His resignation leaves six Ulster Unionist representatives remaining in the council chamber. He will be one of three Independents and has turned down an invitation to join the DUP.

Ald Michael said: “I have left with my integrity intact and that is who I am. I cannot support Steve Aiken’s appointment as Deputy Speaker and Mike Nesbitt’s appointment as Health Minister.”

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Mr Aiken is an Ulster Unionist MLA for the South Antrim constituency and a Deputy Speaker for the Stormont assembly.

Alderman Paul Michael. Photo by PacemakerAlderman Paul Michael. Photo by Pacemaker
Alderman Paul Michael. Photo by Pacemaker

Ald Michael claimed his phone has been “burning hot about Mike”, referring to the appointment of Mr Nesbitt, a Strangford MLA, to the role of Health Minister after it was vacated by Robin Swann MLA, who is an Ulster Unionist candidate in the Westminster election in South Antrim.

Ald Michael went on to say it is with a “heavy heart” that he tendered his resignation but stated that it was a “principled decision”.

He explained as a member of the party executive, he had a role to play in the management and structure of the party. “I could see my views and opinions were not worth much,” he commented.

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Ald Michael went on to say he will continue to serve as an Independent for the Airport District Electoral Area of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council of which he has been a member since 2015 and a former first citizen. He has also been mayor of the legacy Antrim Borough Council.

He has held the post of the council’s Veterans’ Champion. In 2020, he was honoured with a British Empire Medal for services to local government.

He added he is “proud” of his role in helping to secure a community centre in Crumlin and he is keen for the council to provide a “strong leisure provision to help sustain our youth” and that he is “proud” of the borough’s open spaces.

He also expressed concern over pollution of local rivers and Lough Neagh. “You will be sure Paul Michael will not be silent,” he said.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter