Bobby McKee elected new Mayor of Larne

BOBBY McKee returned unopposed to the post of Mayor of Larne at the local council's annual general meeting on Monday evening.

The DUP man, who served two successive terms up to 2004, succeeds Ulster Unionist Mark Dunn who handed over the chain of office, having presented a succinct review of his 12 months in office.

Alliance Coast Road councillor Gerardine Mulvenna is the deputy mayor. She was also elected unopposed.

All 15 councillors adhered to the spirit and letter of the cross-party pact of 2005 which mapped out responsibility-sharing for the present council up to this year.

First Larne Presbyterian Church minister Rev Colin McClure, the outgoing mayor's chaplain, convened the meeting in prayer, having urged elected members to "think creatively".

"We sometimes have to think differently," he told them. "And it requires a certain type of wisdom."

Proposed as mayor by the outgoing DUP deputy mayor Cllr Gregg McKeen and party colleague Cllr Winston Fulton, Cllr McKee accepted the nomination by paying tribute to his predecessor, chief executive Geraldine McGahey, officers and councillors before encouraging elected members to renew support for the "Team Larne" approach to overcome adverse media coverage of the past year of "ups and downs".

He added, "I count it a privilege and I pledge myself to continue with the work that we all set out to achieve."

Cllr Mulvenna was nominated by her Alliance colleague Cllr John Mathews, seconded by independent councillor Roy Craig. She said, "There is no doubt we have had some challenging times, but I believe we have never been better placed to manage change and achieve what will be best for Larne borough."

She said the council was fortunate to have the direction and guidance of Mrs McGahey and urged support for the new regime at Smiley Buildings, adding, "It is paramount to keep the momentum of progress going."

Cllr Brian Dunn assured the mayor that the UUP grouping "will do everything we can to help you during your year in office".

Ald Danny O'Connor, SDLP, offered "warmest congratulations" and described the council's responsibility-sharing arrangement as "progressive".

Cllr Fulton said the Larne model had set the standard in local government, adding, "Councillors from other areas can't believe this could be achieved."

Cllr Mathews commented, "There have been problems in the past, but I think this council is on the verge of some remarkable successes."

TUV alderman Jack McKee said that in the absence of what he called "vilification and vendettas", the council "can move forward".

On the proposal of Ald Roy Beggs, seconded by Ald O'Connor, it was agreed that committee chairmanships continue to be taken by the main parties in rotation.

Cllr Fulton was elected chairman of the district policing partnership, on the proposal of Cllr McKeen, seconded by Ald McKee.