WORLD famous jockey AP McCoy will be the special guest at a GAA club Gala Dinner in Ballymena but a request for Mid & East Antrim Borough Council to be there has fallen at the first hurdle.
St Ergnat’s Gaelic Athletic Club in Moneyglass wrote to the council saying they would be ‘most grateful if you would consider attending the event’.
St Ergnat’s explained that to mark their 70th anniversary they were holding a Gala Ball in November in the Tullyglass House Hotel in Ballymena.
The letter to the council said the club was ‘treating this event as a fundraiser and also as an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of the club to the community’.
The letter continued that the special guest will be AP McCoy.
In 2016 McCoy, who is from Moneyglass, received a Knighthood for services to horse racing at Buckingham Palace.
The 20-time champion jockey retired in 2015 after he became the most successful jump jockey of all time, having rode more than 4,300 winners.
McCoy played for St Ergnat’s as a boy before leaving County Antrim to dominate the world of horse racing.
McCoy’s family has links to St Ergnat’s and in the past he has provided sponsorship to the club which is fiercely proud of their local hero.
The club gave him a guard of honour in recent years when he returned to Moneyglass for a special day of events to celebrate his sporting achievements.
The council was told tables of ten were available at this November’s dinner for £750 or sponsorship could be taken in the event’s programme starting of at £150 and rising to £350.
The GAA letter continued: ‘We would like to thank you in advance for your support and hope that you can get involved in some way to help make our special night a success’.
The letter was tabled at the monthly meeting of the Council this week.
Ballymena DUP councillor John Carson quickly took up the running and asked if the club was in the borough of Mid & East Antrim and when Mayor, Cllr Lindsay Millar, said it wasn’t, Alderman Carson queried how the club could meet the funding criteria.
Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy said the club is in the Antrim & Newtownabbey Council area and was not inside the Mid & East Antrim Borough but that the club said some of their members do live in Mid & East Antrim.
Alderman Carson proposed that as the club was not in their borough the application should be marked ‘as read’ and no action taken.
However, Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan hoped the going was good and said that Moneyglass was just on the other side of the council boundary and a “significant” number of club members live in Mid & East Antrim in areas like Ballyscullion.
Therefore, he said residents of the borough were members of the club and benefited from the club.
He suggested that similar to a request to attend the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice Gala Dinner being held at Galgorm Resort and Spa that the GAA dinner be backed by taking an advert in the St Ergnat’s programme.
Glarryford TUV councillor Timothy Gaston then galloped into the debate by backing Alderman Carson’s proposal to take no action on the GAA request and said if councillors wanted to attend the GAA dinner they could pay out of their own pocket.
Martinstown Independent councillor Paul Maguire seconded Cllr O’Loan’s suggestion and said he recalled that the Council had previously agreed to attend a dinner in County Armagh which set a “precedent” regarding events held by organisations outside the area.
Larne councillor Paul Reid (DUP) said the Moneyglass club was either in the Mid & East Antrim Borough or it wasn’t – “it can’t be both”.
Regarding the County Armagh event Cllr Reid said it was in connection with Victoria Cross recipient William McFadzean and councillors from Mid & East Antrim had paid for their own tickets “at no cost to the ratepayers”.
Entering the final furlong, Cllr Gaston said the GAA invitation and the NI Children’s Hospice invitations were “completely different”.
He said the Hospice did “sterling work” for the benefit of all people in the area and across Northern Ireland “and it is not a section of the community that they will be targetting”.
A vote was taken on Cllr O’Loan’s amendment that the council should take out a page of advertising in connection with the GAA event and seven councillors voted in favour; 17 against with five abstentions.
Crossing the finish line at a canter, Alderman Carson’s proposal to mark the item ‘as read’ – and therefore take no action – was backed by 18 councillors with four against and seven abstentions.