Historic day as Hibernian dignitaries visit Larne mayor

HISTORY was made at Smiley Buildings when DUP Mayor Cllr Bobby McKee hosted a reception for the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

The Catholic lay organisation was invited to the mayor's parlour at Smiley Buildings on Wednesday, after the unionist-controlled council agreed unanimously to grant use of its community centre grounds when the Hibernians parade at Carnlough in August.

Cllr McKee, UUP alderman Roy Beggs, Alliance councillor John Mathews and council chief executive Geraldine McGahey welcomed a delegation headed by Co Antrim board president Bobby Loughran, including county secretary Donal McCann and Billy McCambridge, who is secretary of Carnlough Division 154 and assistant president in Co Antrim.

Mr McCambridge has commended the councillors and staff for their hospitality, saying, "This was the first time the Ancient Order of Hibernians has been to the Larne Borough Council offices. It has opened up a door and hopefully that door will remain open."

He told the Larne Times, "Some of our members were probably a bit apprehensive about going to Larne Council, but the mayor, the councillors, the chief executive and the staff couldn't have done more to make all of us feel very welcome."

Cllr McKee said he was "proud as mayor" that the invitation had been extended, adding, "We are in a new dispensation and I am very comfortable with it.

"My duty as mayor is to represent both sides of the community. The fact we have met does not mean any of us have to alter our views or forsake our heritage, but it does show that we can be friends and have mutual respect for one another's beliefs and traditions."

Carnlough is hosting the August 15 parade - a celebration of the Feast of the Assumption - for the first time in 23 years. At least 1,500 members representing up to 40 divisions all over Ireland will be joined by visiting dignitaries from the Republic, Great Britain, the United States and Australia.