Royal visit hopes as new first citizen appointed

Securing a royal visit was just one of the items on the agenda for the new Mayor of Carrickfergus as he took over his role this week.
New Mayor of Carrickfergus, Councillor Charles Johnston. INCT 23-028-PSBNew Mayor of Carrickfergus, Councillor Charles Johnston. INCT 23-028-PSB
New Mayor of Carrickfergus, Councillor Charles Johnston. INCT 23-028-PSB

Alderman Charles Johnston was appointed as first citizen at the local authority’s final annual general meeting on Monday evening, with DUP colleague Councillor Lynn McClurg selected as Deputy Mayor.

It will be the fourth term as Mayor for the Freeman of the Borough, who previously served in the role from 1984to 1986 and in 1990 to 1991.

The appointment was welcome news for the 64-year-old after a period of illness in recent months. “I’ve been fighting cancer so this has given me a boost; when you’re going through something like that you have to be as brave as you can and stay positive and that’s certainly what I am trying to do,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to giving my all to the people of Carrickfergus; I first came onto the council in 1973 and it’s a great honour to be Mayor of Carrickfergus Borough Council in its final 10 months of existence before the new council comes in.”

The news also represents a first for the borough with Alderman Johnston’s wife, Patricia, having herself served as Mayor from 2008 to 2010. “We were married on May 3 at Carrickfergus Methodist and had our reception at the Windrose,” Ald Johnston added.

“Rev Aian Ferguson at Carrick Methodist would have been serving as my chaplain, but as he’ll be leaving at the end of June it will be Rev David Clements.”

With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge having been named Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus on their wedding day in 2011, Ald Johnston outlined his intentions to send a renewed invitation to the royal couple.

“As Mayor I will be asking the Chief Executive to write to them and hopefully we will get a royal visit to the borough at some point in the coming year,” he said.

Monday night’s meeting also saw a number of other appointments to the council’s committees, with the DUP securing the majority of the roles.

Beryl McKnight was selected as chair of the Chief Executive’s Office, with John Stewart (UUP) as vice-chair.

At the head of the Support Services Committee is May Beattie, with Billy Ashe in the vice chair role.

Development Services will be chaired by Andrew Wilson (UUP), with Terry Clements as vice chair, while Eric Ferguson (UUP) and Jim McClurg will occupy the same respective roles on the Environmental Services Committee.

Deborah Emerson will lead the Building Services Committee, with Fred Cobain taking on the role of vice-chair.

Speaking at the meeting, outgoing Mayor Billy Ashe paid tribute to his council colleagues. “For the past two years things have been harmonious in this chamber and I want to wish my successor all the best for this incoming year,” he said.