Tributes paid to outgoing politician

Ben Kelso.
Ben Kelso.

Elected representatives wished a councillor well during his last meeting as a member of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

UUP man, Cllr Ben Kelso is leaving his role as a Threemilewater DEA representative to focus on work commitments.

During the monthly meeting of the local authority on September 25, which was Cllr Kelso’s last council meeting, elected members paid tribute to the outgoing councillor.

Praising Mr Kelso, Cllr Phillip Brett, leader of the DUP grouping, said: “From a political point of view I will be glad to see the back of Cllr Kelso. He’s been a very good champion of his constituents and a good champion of debate in this chamber.

“I know that whenever he put on his microphone, he never failed to entertain members.”

Cllr Brett added: “On a more personal basis, members will be aware that I’ve been friends with Cllr Kelso for many years and it was a great occasion that both of us were elected for the first time on the same day.

“I just want to wish you well Ben. You can leave this chamber with your head held high- you did a great job.”

Tributes were also paid by Alliance representative, Ald Tom Campbell, SDLP representative, Cllr Noreen McClelland, TUV representative, Cllr David Hollis, Sinn Fein representative, Cllr Michael Goodman and Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Cllr Paul Hamill.

UUP group leader, Ald Mark Cosgrove also wished his party colleague well.

He said: “At the end of the day, Ben has taken a decision with regards to the furtherance of his career.

“He’s a young man and is clearly doing very well. I think that the chamber in general should be immensely proud of him.

“He is a young man from amongst our own, whose career has clearly rocketed.

“There has been a tension between the work/council balance and I want to pay tribute to Ben in that regard in terms of coming up from his place of employment and leaving very early in the morning to go back to it.”

The Glengormley DEA representative added: “My private advice to Ben was to go for it. At his age he can come back to politics at anytime, but career opportunities, the like of which he has had, perhaps won’t be requested again.

“I am very proud of him.”

Thanking his colleagues from across the chamber for their comments, Mr Kelso said: “Thank you everyone. I think since my intention to stand down became public the support from across the chamber has been significant.

“I’ve had many pleasant emails from many political representatives and non political representatives.

“I’d like to thank everyone here, the council staff, the officers, the Chief Executive, but most importantly, my constituents who I hope have benefitted from my service during my period of time as a councillor.”

He added: “I look forward to representing constituents again, perhaps if not the ones of Threemilewater, although I’d be honoured if I could, but some constituents, in some place at some time. I hope to be a public representative in the future.”

Mr Kelso’s departure from the local authority comes in the wake of an internal disagreement within the UUP grouping.

Last month he hit back at claims that he was not “pulling his weight”, after it emerged he lives and works in the Republic of Ireland.

UUP councillor John Scott had publicly resigned from the party over the matter in August, claiming that one of his colleagues was not fulfilling his duties as an elected representative.

In September councillor Kelso rejected Cllr Scott’s concerns and said his role as a councillor was “in no way impacted” by his Dublin-based job.

Addressing the council meeting on Monday, September 25, Cllr Scott said: “Some people might find this strange, but I’ve already sent Cllr Kelso an email to congratulate him and wish him well in his career.”