New Year Message from Mayor Karen Douglas

Friday 30th December 2022

As we approach the end of 2022, I am glad to have this opportunity to reflect on what has been a successful year for Ards and North Down…

New Year Message from the Mayor

Throughout this year we have gradually edged out of the grips of the pandemic and a level of normality has returned to society. We can happily see our friends and loved ones again without the need for social distancing, while Ards and North Down is very much open for business and welcoming visitors with open arms.

2022 has been an important year for our Borough. There were several significant moments including some historic occasions that everyone in Ards and North Down, including future generations, will be able to look back on with pride.

This was the year that the Council made the unprecedented decision to bestow two Freedom of the Borough honours. The Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour we can bestow and is rarely conferred, so to have two in one year was very special.

The Irish Guards were first to receive the honour in June. Thousands of spectators lined the streets of Newtownards to watch the Regimental Band of the Irish Guards as well as the Drums and Pipes of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards march to Conway Square where a Drumhead Service took place. It was a hugely prestigious occasion and a wonderful sight to behold.

Then, in August, musician and philanthropist Gary Lightbody OBE was also awarded the Freedom of the Borough. To celebrate, Snow Patrol held an acoustic concert at Bangor seafront where thousands flocked to hear the Bangor man play in front of a packed crowd.

Tickets for the concert were sold out in minutes but that failed to dent the enthusiasm of those who were too late to secure their entry to the venue. With the sun shining, many visited our local establishments and stood outside where they caught glimpses of our local rock star and heard him sing from afar. It was a truly fabulous atmosphere!

When Snow Patrol sang ‘Take Back the City’, it was a wonderful nod to Bangor that had successfully bid to secure City Status as part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

City Status was officially conferred when HRH Princess Anne unveiled the Letters Patent at a special ceremony during her visit to Bangor in early December. It was another historic moment for the new city and the wider Borough. The conferment of City Status will undoubtedly give Bangor another boost as progress continues to be made on the Queen’s Parade and Bangor Waterfront developments. There are exciting times ahead.

In June, we all came together in celebration of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Everyone had a wonderful time but little did we know that just a few months later, we would all be united in mourning after Her Majesty’s passing. Once again, the Borough came together and paid its respects to Queen Elizabet II, who was a symbol of grace, dignity and elegance, while at the same time a symbol of strength, courage and dedication to her country. We all miss her.

As we look towards 2023, I am all too aware that the rising cost of living means many individuals and families are struggling to make ends meet. However, it is important to highlight the help that is available for those in need, particularly from three charities that I am supporting – Bangor Foodbank and Community Support, Newtownards Foodbank, and North Down and Ards Women’s Aid.

It is so important that when people find themselves in times of crisis or distress, the necessary resources and support are readily available. I am immensely proud to be supporting these charities so that nobody in our Borough suffers in silence. The work that they do is invaluable so if you feel you could do with a helping hand, please reach out to them for assistance.

To conclude, I hope everyone has been able to spend quality time with friends and family during the Christmas period.  As we look to the future, I hope the coming year brings everyone in Ards and North Down good health and happiness.

Councillor Karen Douglas
Mayor of Ards and North Down