One of the borough’s longest-serving councillors, Jordanstown man Ken Robinson, has decided to call time on his political career.
While his Ulster Unionist Party colleagues have set their sights on winning seats on the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, the 71-year-old has elected to step aside.
He will continue to serve on Newtownabbey Council until March 31, 2015 when the two local authorities merge.
First elected in 1985, Cllr Robinson lost his seat in 1993 but made a return to the council in a by-election two years later. He took a seat in the University DEA in 1997 and has served the area since. He served three terms as Deputy Mayor and was proud to be elected Mayor in 1991.
A former primary school principal, Mr Robinson retired in 1997 after undergoing a quadruple heart bypass operation.
In 1998 he fulfilled a boyhood ambition when he won a seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly, going on to serve as an East Antrim MLA for 13 years.
Cllr Robinson is very proud of what he’s achieved as a public representative over the past 30 years, particularly his role in driving forward the Newtownabbey Way project and the twinning initiatives with towns in Germany and Poland. He also points to the creation of jobs through Mallusk Enterprise Park, the clean-up of the Threemilewater river and improvements to the local road (A2 and A8) and rail (Bleachgreen Line) infrastructure.
Explaining why he’s calling it a day now, he said: “It’s an obvious break now as we move to the new super councils. I’ve done 13 years in the Assembly and nearly 30 years here in local government so I think it’s time for me to step aside and allow other people to have a go at it.
“I’ve carried the torch and carried it through what were very difficult times for Northern Ireland and for democracy generally. I think we’re in a better place now, so perhaps this is the time to step aside and let others have a go.”
Cllr Robinson, who is also stepping down from a number of other posts, including as a governor of several local schools, said that he’s keen to spend more time with his seven grandchildren.
A member of the UUP since the 1960s, he says he’ll remain a member of the party. And he believes that his colleagues will face considerable challenges on the new super council, particularly in relation to planning issues.
Cllr Robinson proudly points to the fact that he was successful in 10 of the 11 elections he contested over the years. He says that he’s enjoyed his political career “immensely” and admits that he’s going to miss political life.
“It has been tremendous. It has given me the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people, to go into homes and speak to people and help them solve a variety of problems. I’ve also been fortunate enough meet Her Majesty The Queen, other members of the Royal family and President Clinton on two occasions. It has given me great opportunities.”