Slugger Awards: Councillor of the Year?

Given there are 582 councillors in 26 councils in Northern Ireland, our problem here should be an embarrassment of riches. Local councillors are often the workhorses of democracy, often undertaking work with the minimum of resources. The majority of them working hard far beyond the metropolitan attention of the Belfast bubble.

And yet it is not yet clear what makes a good councillor. Under the current dispensation where councillors have only an advisory role with regard to planning, the practical fixer is clearly a popular role. But what else adds up to the best councillor YOU know? A thinker? A doer? A conciliator? A starter of fires? An independent curmudgeon who refuses to give any cosy consensus an easy ride?Let us know below. Be as expansive as you like, with specific examples of the kind of thing you consider to be best practice. With your nominations, please try to include:

1. A brief account of the qualities your candidate brings to her/his council duties.
2. The kinds of things s/he has achieved in the last 12 months.
3. What you believe are the critical qualities required by a local councillor.

You can make your nominations either below. Be as expansive as you wish, so we can make the best pitch possible to both the reader and judges panels who may not be as familiar as you with your favoured candidate.

  • Marconi

    Cara McShane of Moyle District Council sticks out for me. Shes currently Chairperson of the Council there – the youngest ever and the first republican woman in that position.

    She uses her initiative and approached the local newspaper about doing a weekly piece which is a diary of her work as the chaie every week – the first time that this has been done.

    She has great capability as a public speaker which is unfortunately a rare thing in our councils and has done a number of impressive interviews on Radio Ulster, etc over the past year, one which sticks out in my mind was about the accomodation of the travelling community in Ballycastle.

    The Council had a Lammas Fair dinner last month and Cara, against the wishes of some, decided that they should do a voluntary envelope collection for local charities at the dinner, given the fact that it is customary for the dinner to be free to those attending. This is the first time a Chairperson here has used their initiative in any way.

    She is hard-working, is well received by everyone in the district and brings a sense of fair play to the post of councillor. She topped the poll in Ballycastle in 2005 and is not afraid to be vocal on important local issues.

  • Drumlins Rock

    ok might as well put my speak in again,
    I would like to nominate Councillor Walter Cuddy, UUP councillor for Dungannon town, possibly best know for being the insitgator of the increasingly famous “Gannonball Run” soapbox race on the august bank holiday, which is only in its second year but is starting to put the town on the map for the right reasons for once. He has also helped initiate a rock festival on the historic Castlehill called Altitude, which shows great potential of growing and building a bridge between the council and the youth in the town.
    At these or any other council events Walter is not seen on a stage or courting the press but is usually mucking in with the other council staff.
    In a very much divided town Walter works across the community and serves everyone, despite the council swinging for a 50/50 split for years to nationalist control it has maintained a balance in most areas that most people in the area are comfortable with, much of that is due Walter and the UUPs efforts to make things work, while still fighting to ensure their community is represented.
    As yet he has not served as mayor of the borough, prefering it seems to concentrate on serving the local rate payers, considering he runs his own business and the local post office it is a miracle he can fit it all in, as for the wider political scene, whilst he works hard for the party particulaily round elections times he concentrates on his own patch and doing what he can to improve the area.
    He has one weakness though that some would hold against him, some of his ideas are maybe a bit far fetched at first, but if they result in gems like the Gannonball Run then I think he is worth listening too.

  • deirdre nelson

    If it’s ok for councillors to nominate other councillors, I’d like to make sure PJ McAvoy in Ballymena gets an honourable mention. He’s totally committed to Ballymena, takes no nonsense from vested interests and isn’t above losing his temper should it be required. he’s hard-working, not overly political and has a huge reputation for honesty and hard work, even among his political opponents and throughout the public.
    Doesn’t mean to say he and I haven’t had words, but he doesn’t hold grudges and he’s prepared to look at other points of view.

  • The Raven

    PT, isn’t the Chairperson/Mayor’s charity chosen at the discretion of the Chairperson/Mayor…? Across the board?

    But anyway, getting back to the subject, can I nominate all-round good egg, and man-of-the-people, Adrian McQuillan in Coleraine? A no-nonsense, straight-talking kinda guy, who elevates politics to the level of smart, and doesn’t let a good quote get in the way of championing a cause. Or indeed, people’s lives. Thanks folks, I’m here all week.

    My nomination would be Cllr Tom Hartley.

    As an aside, Mick, you ask, “what you believe are the critical qualities required by a local councillor?” Here in this region? I’d say not belonging to one of the Big Four is a genuine start. I really only have time for independents, and a select few others, Cllr Hartley being one. I’m hoping for big things about two elections after RPA, when the independent will emerge again, and many of the current crop – of all ages and parties – are long gone.

  • barnshee

    7.If it’s ok for councillors to nominate other councillors, I’d like to make sure PJ McAvoy in Ballymena gets an honourable mention. He’s totally committed to Ballymena, takes no nonsense from vested interests and isn’t above losing his temper should it be required. he’s hard-working, not overly political and has a huge reputation for honesty and hard work, even among his political opponents and throughout the public.
    Doesn’t mean to say he and I haven’t had words, but he doesn’t hold grudges and he’s prepared to look at other points of view.

    LOL an self important insensitive little shit who denigrated an application for a council job. A disgrace

  • frustrated democrat


    Was it your application?

    PJ may not be completely PC and calls a spade a spade and is respected for it. He is definitely not self important nor a shit, he works hard across the divide for all his constituents.

    If we has a lot more PJ’s in councils across NI we would be all the better for it. I would support his nomination.

  • Councillor

    My thoughts on what makes or who makes a good Councillor.

    A good Councillor should be hard working, honest, and not be too ambitious. They should have the ordinary person’s needs at heart.

    Party politics should not take precedent over common sense.

    A good Councillor will not care about getting into photos and hearing themselves talk at meetings just to be seen in the press. They should only speak if they have something to contribute to a discussion – they should not be repeating what four or five other Councillors have already said. They should not care if one Councillor has taken on a particular issue that they may be getting some glory for – jealousy should not come into the work of Public Representatives but it too often does.

    Councillors are public servants – they should be working for the people as best they can. They should not be feathering their own nest or that of their party or party colleagues. They should take into account and accept other people’s opinions. Respect for the way others do things is important.

    I am a Councillor and I have seen it all since I was elected. Jealousy and ambition play too much of a part. I dont know many Councillors, or people who would like to be a Public Representative, who is genuinely there for the people and not just for themselves.

    A few are there for the right reasons – I hope I am one of them although I am prepared to accept I am not if my Constituents feel different.

    The Councillor of the Year should be someone who we can genuinely see as having made an impact in their own community in however long they have been elected. Many dont shout about what they do from the rooftops – this doesnt mean they dont regularly work hard within their community. PR is a wonderful thing and many representatives (and parties) are very good at using it.

    If anyone can name a Councillor who fits the bill I will happily give them my vote.

  • anon in belfast

    I like that chap Matthew McDermott – seems to be a shining light in the youth of the SDLP !

  • E. McArdle

    Conor Maskey is young and dynamic and has got on with a very tough job in north belfast without constantly seeking publicity for it.
    He has done great work on both sides of the community and personally helped me with a housing problem.
    Its this type of ordinary very unglamorous work that I expect my councillor to be doing on my behalf, not spending his/her time at black tie events having their picture featured in the Ulster Tatler mixing with the great and good.
    I expect Slugger will give this award to some old attention seeking codger but I give my vote to Conor Maskey, someone who actually does what he’s elected to do.

  • Mick Fealty


    Well, I would hardly say Deirdre was an old codger and she won it last year. All I would say is the more you can give us to put before the judging panel the better… since although councillors tend to be well known in the locality, they’ve less profile than the MLAs…

  • Michelle

    I would like to nominate Matthew McDermott… he is an excellent councillor in his area and an inspirational figure within SDLP Youth. He is hard working and caring…2 very important aspects to be a councillor!!

  • EastBelfastShiningLight

    I would like to put forward Alderman Michael Copeland from Castlereagh Borough Council.

    I don’t know a Councillor who puts in more hours, facilitates more media interviews and gets the results in the way that Michael Copeland does.

    Michael has a very good way with him, he understands the needs of constituents immediately, he knows exactly where to go and whom to speak to and gets the desired outcome within days, if not hours.

    Most people in East Belfast either know someone or has had personal experience of his ability to simply “get the job done”.

    For a Councillor his consistent and considerable media profile is to be commended. His efforts on flooding in East Belfast over the past several years are nothing but immense and he is delivering the goods bringing forward innovative solutions and tackling the problem head on. The sheer numbers of people whom he assists to get social housing in East Belfast is staggering, considering the lack of housing available.

    For a Councillor, his media presence is commendable with an almost daily presence on either print or broadcast media – or both!

    He is effective, efficient and is a massive asset to the people of East Belfast.

    I believe that Alderman Michael Copeland is head and shoulders above his peers at the present time and ought to be given serious sonsideration for the Slugger Councillor of the Year Award 2009.

  • visionary

    Jim Speers MBE for his contribution to built heritage in Armagh city and surrounding areas.As a councillor he promoted the restoration of the Archbishops Palace Primates CHAPEL and currently supports RICHILL BUILDINGS PRESERVATION TRUST a worthy cause and still raisng funds for restoration of an important C17th grade A listed building

  • visionary

    Jim Speers MBE has worked hard using his charisma in uniting people to deliver projects to last and benefit the local community.He is always co-operative and understanding.Currently he is active in promoting the restoration of Richill Castle

  • EastBelfastBallymac

    Cllr Michael Copeland is someone who is always available to meet with local people and community groups at anytime of the day. He is someone who will do his very best to address any issues or problems that have be brought to him.

    Although he is a councillor for Castlereagh he is always willing to help in other areas, such as East Belfast, where he is as well known as what he is in the Castlereagh Council area.

  • Gary Stokes

    I would nominate Michael Carr, my colleague on Newry & Mourne who possesses a number of qualities needed to make a first-rate councillor. He is honest, hardworking, unselfish, fearless, knowledgeable and a man of integrity.

    Over the past year, in tough economic times, he continues to lead council in rates negotiations, a role adapted over the past 8 yrs, which saw Newry and Mourne council drop from highest off all rates to 16th in the table.

    Michael worked with other councillors across the North to bring the Sister City International (SCI) conference to Belfast. As chairman of N&M SCI committee he paved the way for N&M to sign an agreement with Southern Pines NC at that conference, then arranged his annual leave to chauffeur the visiting group across our district.

    Over this same period Michael put an enormous amount of time and effort into the Local Government Boundary Commissioner’s consultation process. With support from his constituents in Warrenpoint, he has made both written and oral contributions at every stage. Both the Assistant Commissioner and the Commissioner accepted the arguments made on urban/rural split, but then stated the required ward could not be delineated. Michael made a final proposal and delineated the ward without compromising the Commissioner’s rules, although it was not adopted.

    With support from all political parties and Down DC a campaign continues to the Minister and Assembly to redress the urban/rural imbalance proposed for Warrenpoint.

    Michael reveals more skills in building his own website to support the campaign at:

    Worthy of consideration

  • slug

    I second that about PJ McAvoy, Ballymena SDLP. A hard working councillor who solves problems, does not create them. Popular because he cares about Ballymena.

  • Ronnie Mac

    I’d like to jointly nominate Cllr Deirdre Nelson and Cllr Ian Parsley for their bold bid to change the face of Northern Ireland politics.

    Leaving behind your political party and changing to a new one takes a bit of courage – old friends left behind and inevitable personal attacks.

    But ultimately they are right – Northern Ireland does deserve better politics.

  • Mark McGregor

    Domhnall O’Cobhthaigh of Fermanagh. While I do have some negative views on him, I think the fact he resigned his seat when he left SF for the Socialist party is a demostration of integrity that very few have shown in a similar situation.

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

    I’ll nominate Cllr. Mark Dunn. Cares nought for constituency party, “alone, friendless, I seek the nomination” he exclaims.

    Class A bloke.

  • salem

    Matthew McDermott is a hard working councillor, working for as an Assitant for Alex Attwood, Chair of the SDLP Youth and the father of a young child. He is also helping to drive forward change in the SDLP, by helping to form SDLP policy and has become a key person the new SDLP.

    In December of last year threatening and offensive graffiti appeared that appeared in poleglass. However this seems only to spur Matthew on to work harder for his constiuents and prove that the SDLP are here to stay in West Belfast.

  • YelloSmurf

    I’m going to have to nominate Naomi Long for the fantastic job she is doing as Belfast Lord Mayor. She has raised the profile of the job even higher than it was in previous years and has managed to represent the entire city while still having something to say. She is, in my opinion, one of the best Lord Mayors that Belfast has evr had.

  • c grant

    I would have great pleasure in nominating Michael Copeland who has assisted and continues to support the long suffering flood victims of east belfast.I can honestly say i have never known any other who is prepared to fight the corner for a group or individual cause when all others appear to turn the other cheek.His commitment,dogged determination and straight talking no nonsense approach is quite frankly a breath of fresh air.This province needs more people like Michael who is clearly in touch with the real down to earth issues ,Michael is a real peoples champion who never shurks from rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in. He has and continues to be on call 24hrs a day 7 days a week.A truly deserved sincere nomination to a man who gives to his community and expects nothing in return.

  • West Belfast Voter

    I would like to nominate Alderman Michael Copeland from Castlereagh Borough Council. A lot has been said about how the people of Northern Ireland can enter the future with a great expectation of change and propersity. Without people like Michael Copeland this new future will be a lot harder to acheive. I hail from west belfast and hand on heart if Michael copeland was on the ballet paper in my voting ward, he would get my vote, everytime. We look forward to the day in Northern Ireland when we can get away from the entrenched politics of the past, when we don’t see our voting papers in shades of green or orange. When bread and butter issues that effect the ordinary man in the street are dealt with. People like Michael Copeland will make that happen.He is constantly Working for the greater good, no matter what side of the community we come from.

  • jonathon warrington

    i would like to nominate Michael Copeland.
    after having my home wrecked twice in the last two years due to floods. i can honestly say that michael has been the only cllr to care.the first on the phone and the last away from the house.
    when no insurance company would touch me,michael got me insurance.what else can i say than a true gent.uup take note this guy should be in a more senior role.

  • NM

    Tom Hartley for doing a grand job last year as Lord Mayor!

  • Paris

    I would nominate Cllr Niall Kelly, SDLP Councillor for South Belfast. Niall has done fantastic in the council and has been an excellent representative for the people of South Belfast. I have been to public meetings where Niall has been in attendance and has always been very well spoken.

    SDLP in my view are very strong in South Belfast with Carmel Hanna as an excellent MLA and ofcourse Cllr Bernie Kelly…

    Watch out for Niall…We will be seeing him in Stormont sooner rather than later!!

  • belfastratepayer

    I would like to nominate Maire Hendron who works tirelessly for good relations without seeking publicity. this is the sort of hard working councillor that takes her role as a local representative seriously and can look at the greater good, a true accidental activist who wants to make a difference.

  • D Reid

    I would like to nominate Michael Henderson of Castlereagh Borough Council. He has lived in Carryduff most of his life and has sat on the council for many years now. With being a local in the community many know Michael and trust him and his judgement. Michael is always ready and waiting for any favour his fellow community ask of him (within reason) and for putting things forward to his fellow council members.

    Michael and his party (UUP) want the best for Northern Ireland and I know that he is a valued memeber within the council.

  • New Irelander

    I nominate Cllrs Niall Kelly and Matthew McDermott of the SDLP. Hard working, imaginative and the future of te party,