Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has agreed to host an event for the Northern Ireland football team to celebrate their qualification for the European championships.
At a meeting in Mossley Mill on October 26, councillors also voted to contact the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Irish Football Association (IFA) to explore options to broadcast Northern Ireland’s 2016 European Championship matches at locations across the borough.
The team’s win against Greece earlier this month marked Northern Ireland’s first qualification for a major tournament in 30 years.
Councillors lined up to congratulate the squad on their achievement.
DUP Cllr Phillip Brett, who attended the game at Windsor Park and who proposed the motion, commented: “Thursday October 8 will be forever etched in our memories with instant significance and it is important to many people in the borough.
“We should write to the IFA to pass on our congratulations to the team.”
Cllr Brett highlighted that local players including Corry Evans, Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart and Paddy McNair were in the winning team.
“Not everyone will head to France,” he added.
“It is appropriate that council officers engage with the IFA and DCAL to see if it can be screened at some locations.
“It is a great occasion for Northern Ireland and for everyone in this borough and I’m sure everyone would like to join us in congratulating the Northern Ireland team.”
Deputy Mayor John Blair commended the motion.
Cllr David Arthurs said that the borough “should take great pleasure in the victory for Northern Ireland.”
In addition to praising the players, he highlighted that the current IFA President Jim Shaw, as well as coaching staff Jim Magilton, Jimmy Nicholl and Stephen Robinson all hailed from the local area.
Cllr Arthurs also voiced his support for holding an event for the players and coaching staff.
“I would urge that the Deputy Mayor write to the IFA to request Thursday November 12 when Northern Ireland will be all together as they play a friendly in Belfast on November 13,” he stated.
Seconding Cllr Brett’s motion, Cllr Arthurs suggested that screens should be erected in prominent areas like the Civic Square for fans who are not going to France.
UUP Alderman Mark Cosgrove said he was “delighted to see this motion.”
“Given some of the potential locations it could be a commercially viable option,” he continued.
“I can envisage capacity crowds cheering Northern Ireland on from council property.
“What an opportunity it will be to showcase our facilities, perhaps to a group of people who wouldn’t normally come here to see what we have to offer.”
DUP Alderman Billy De Courcy and Alliance Cllr Neil Kelly also offered their congratulations to the team.
Cllr John Scott congratulated Cllrs Brett and Arthurs for bringing forward the motion, and reminded members that Alderman Fraser Agnew had coached Paddy McNair for three years.
SDLP Cllr Roisin Lynch also congratulated the team on their success.
“It’s a great opportunity to enjoy, support and come together as a community,” she concluded.
The motion passed unanimously.