New Year’s Honours for east Antrim residents

A number of residents from across east Antrim and Newtownabbey received prestigious recognition in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list.

Six-time World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea received the OBE for services to motorcycle racing.

The Ballyclare rider had received the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to motorcycle racing in the 2017 Birthday Honours.

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The Head Coach and Project Manager at Monkstown Amateur Boxing Club, Paul Johnston, received the MBE for services to sport and to the community in Co Antrim.

Jonathan Rea OBE.

Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times, Paul, who has been at the Cashel Drive club for 34 years, said: “I am hugely honoured and immensely proud of the work we do.

“It is an award for me, but also so many people on the team who try to make a difference in people’s lives.

“We try to unlock the potential in the young people and it is very rewarding.

“I have been lucky to have worked with so many gifted and talented athletes like Steven Ward, Neil Sinclair and Aidan Walsh.”

Former world champion Barry McGuigan presented a National Lottery Award to Paul Johnston in 2015. (Pic Bill Smyth Photography).

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Paul and the other coaching staff and volunteers at the Newtownabbey club worked hard to support vulnerable members of the community.

Paul stated: “At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, we had a choice to make. We could have shut the doors and put people on furlough or we could step up and support the community. We distributed 10,000 meals and 5,000 food parcels to people in need.”

He added: “I’d like to thank my wife for putting up with me. I work long hours at the club. I’d also like to thank my family and the community for supporting me.

“Hopefully when it is time for me to collect my award, restrictions will allow me to attend the ceremony with my wife and my 83-year-old mum. It would be nice to have her there.”

Christchurch minister Rev Dr Samuel Grant received the MBE for services to the community in Carrickfergus.

Author and illustrator, Oliver Jeffers, a former Hazelwood Integrated College pupil, received the MBE for services to the Arts.

Mr Reynold James Kirk received the MBE for services to the North Irish Horse Regimental Association and to the

Carrickfergus Community Heritage Project.

Prof Jackie McCoy, Professor, Management Development and Associate Dean for Global Engagement at the Ulster University, received the MBE for services to Higher Education, to Business and to the Arts.

Larne athlete James McIlroy received the British Empire Medal for services to Athletics in Northern Ireland.

Former Head of Parks at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ivor McMullan, received the BEM for public service during Covid-19.

Mr McMullan, who had worked in local government for 39 years, retired from the council in May.

Speaking to this newspaper, the Cullybackey resident said: “I was supposed to retire before Covid-19 hit, but once the pandemic arrived, I stayed on.

“There are so many highlights during my time at Antrim and Newtownabbey. I was involved in a number of capital projects, including the opening of sports pitches and play parks and it was very rewarding.

“When Coronavirus arrived, it was such a bad time and we were managing things as best we could, ensuring burials could take place.

“Thankfully the numbers weren’t as bad as we had planned for. As a council, we had a pandemic plan in place from about four or five years before Covid-19 hit. This definitely gave us a head start when it arrived.

“I got to work with ordinary people who were committed to helping the community and working as a team, without any complaints and my award is recognition for all of their hard work too.

“The pandemic was a new experience for everyone. Staff had concerns about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones, but everyone went the extra mile. The BEM is a lovely honour to have.”

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