The Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Civic Reception to congratulate the Northern Ireland team was a very good event. It was well managed and local lads Steve Davis and Michael O’Neil rightly received the plaudits and best wishes they so richly deserve.
However the event was also inappropriate in scale and ostentatiousness. When I supported a proposal for a Civic Reception at the council meeting on the 2nd November 2015 my expectation was of a modest affair certainly not a 6 course dinner and the accompanying pomp and ceremony.
This town and the wider council area have been hit hard by the loss of jobs over the past year. Across the area workers in manufacturing fear the request that staff should gather in the canteen for an announcement. We as elected representatives cannot carry on business as usual. We cannot continue to offer pomp and spin as answers to the real problems that affect our communities.
I want the Northern Ireland team to return, not to a fancy dinner with the great and good but to the Showgrounds, to run training sessions with schoolkids from across the Borough. To sign autographs and pose for photos but also to inspire our children, to tell them that commitment and ability go hand in hand with achievement. That would be a worthwhile use of rate-payers money.
In truth, as a council we are struggling, struggling to catch up on the basic need to define a structure and plot the way forward. This merger was forced, there was no meeting of minds between the previous councils and the preparation that other councils completed years ago we are only starting. We need greater urgency and a greater understanding of the responsibility we now have to improve the quality of people’s lives.
At this half-term our report card is clearly marked “Must do better”.