COUNCILLORS on Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, on Tuesday evening, held a two minute silence at their main monthly meeting as a mark of respect to all those who died during the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland.
The DUP Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, also dedicated the silent reflection to George Floyd whose death in police custody in America sparked worldwide protests.
Kitty Neeson, mother of Liam Neeson – a ‘Freeman’ of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council – was also included in the sentiments.
With coronavirus lockdown restrictions still in place, for the first time, the council meeting was streamed online for the public to watch.
Councillors and officials were well spaced in the council chamber in Ballymena and a number of councillors contributed to the meeting from home via ‘Zoom’.
The ‘First Citizen’, who was elected in the Knockagh area near Carrickfergus, said: “As the newly appointed Mayor I would like to pass on my sympathies to the families of the 537 people in Northern Ireland who have lost their lives to coronavirus since March 2020.
“It has been a very sad time for many families and they didn’t have the capacity to grieve and deal with the passing of their loved ones in the normal way.
“It has been a very difficult time for a lot of families and my thoughts and prayers go out to you all.”
The Mayor also passed on his sympathies to the family of George Floyd “whose death has caused people to take to the streets”.
Cllr Johnston added: “Racism and all forms of hatred are unjustifiable and not acceptable across the world.
“We support the right to peaceful protest and condemn the small minority of vigilantes who have hijacked this cause for their own perverted means.
“Proverbs tells us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Loving our neighbour extends to those beyond our community.
“Leadership requires us to unitedly raise our voice to condemn the unjust and I know that is the message which reverberates from Council tonight.
“The town of Ballymena along with the rest of the world has been saddened to learn of the death of Kitty Neeson, mother of one of our ‘Freemen of the Borough’ Liam Neeson.
“Kitty was a larger than life character and was always smiling and was very well known across the town of Ballymena.
“She will be very sadly missed by her friends and family. On behalf of Council I would extend our thoughts and prayers and sympathy to the Neeson family circle at this very difficult time as she was laid to rest earlier today.”
The Mayor also passed on condolences to the family of Jeannie Holmes, wife of well-known Ballymena community worker Brian Holmes. Mrs Holmes passed away on May 29.
Cllr Johnston added: “Normally we would stand for one minute’s silence but tonight I am going to ask that we stand for two minutes in light of the recent events and as we reflect on the sad loss of 537 lives in this country. We will also take this opportunity to mark the death of George Floyd and the passing of Kitty Neeson.”