Mid & East Antrim Borough Council backs call to host event to recognise success of Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers but ten councillors abstain and TUV man says manager has to do more to ‘stamp out sectarianism’ among some fans at the club

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Mid & East Antrim Council, on Monday night, voted to honour Carnlough-born Brendan Rodgers’ achievements at Celtic FC.

Although there were no votes against the holding of a ‘Mayor’s Reception’ for the football chief, a quarter of councillors, including Traditional Unionist Voice representatives, failed to back the move by abstaining.

A TUV councillor said he saluted Rodgers for succeeding as a manager but said he should do more to “stamp out sectarianism” among some fans at Celtic FC.

A call had been made by Carnlough Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown for the Council to recognise Rodgers’ football glory.

The Notice of Motion from Councillor McKeown said: “Given our record of celebrating any local sporting success that we in Mid and East Antrim Council recognise the achievements of Carnlough man Brendan Rodgers in leading Glasgow Celtic to a second consecutive domestic treble in Scottish football.

“This is an historic achievement as records show Brendan and his team are the first to complete such a feat in Scotland.

“It is also historic as only two other teams in any other country have been able to complete a double treble in top flight football.”

The Ballymena-based council has 40 councillors and has a large Unionist majority including 16 DUP, nine Ulster Unionists and four Traditional Unionist Voice representatives.

A show of hands was taken at the meeting and 23 councillors were in support of honouring Rodgers.

There were no votes against, however there were ten abstentions officially recorded.

The show of hands was just counted and names of those voting in a particular way were not officially recorded, however, abstentions could be seen from the TUV benches.

Rodgers (45) grew up in Carnlough and attended St Patrick’s College in Ballymena.

Rodgers started off his football career at a Ballymena-based youth team called Star United.

His Celtic team got this year’s league campaign off to a winning start on Saturday by beating Livingston 3-1.

Cllr McKeown said Rodgers grew up in a “football-mad home” supporting Sheffield Wednesday as his cousin, former Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington played for them, and also Celtic because his dad supported them.

The councillor said Rodgers’ success were great achievements for a boy “who grew up in the Croft estate” in Carnlough.

He told the meeting: “At the very least we should have a Mayor’s Reception for him”.

Clooney-based Sinn Fein councillor Patrice Hardy said if you mention Carnlough the name Brendan Rodgers will follow.

She believed there was an “onus” on the council to support the motion.

Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan praised Rodgers.

Glenarm Ulster Unionist councillor Maureen Morrow supported the motion saying Rodgers was a “great role model”.

When Rodgers was manager of Liverpool FC, she said she had sought to have his achievements honoured by the former Larne Borough Council.

Cullybackey DUP councillor Tommy Nicholl said he was backing the motion and applauded Rodgers saying the manager had encouraged young players to declare for Northern Ireland and not “another jurisdiction”.

Alderman Nicholl said he wished to “applaud him for his work in community relations” adding that he was a “great ambassador for this country”.

Glarryford Traditional Unionist Voice councillor Timothy Gaston said: “Being a manager he is responsible for Celtic both on and off the park and one thing I would like to see Brendan Rodgers trying to do more of is to try and stamp out the sectarianism that exists in Celtic Football Club by the weekly faithful of the Green Brigade (fan group).

“We have had numerous occasions over the years in that ground where he has been the manager where it has been widely displayed on banners, chants, and also even incidents like Aldergrove airport at the weekend.

“I salute Brendan Rodgers for what he has done as a manager but I would like to see him going the extra mile in trying to stamp out sectarianism that exists in the football club that he currently manages”.

Kilwaughter TUV councillor Ruth Wilson said the motion was really about Rodgers “leading Glasgow Celtic”.

Councillor James McKeown responded: “This motion is about Brendan Rodgers, it is not about any one particular football club, he just happens to be the manager of Glasgow Celtic at the minute and long may that be but if he had achieved that same success at any other football club I would still be bringing this motion”.

Cllr McKeown said every football club had problems and they try to work to improve their image but he reiterated his motion was “strictly about Brendan Rodgers the man and his achievements”.

He thanked Councillor Nicholl in particular for his comments.

Mayor, Carrickfergus Councillor Lindsay Millar (Ulster Unionist), said she will now organise a Mayor’s Reception.

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