Belfast Telegraph

Faces of history give new council headache

Portraits of ex-mayors redundant say officials

By Rebecca Black

There has been disagreement at Ards and North Down Council over what to do with more than 100 old portraits of mayors.

It came during a discussion about how to "sensitively dispense" of items from the old separate Ards Borough Council and North Down Borough Council.

As well as the portraits, there are robes and council photographs. Currently, Bangor Town Hall - where meetings of the full Ards and North Down Council are held - is bedecked with portraits of former North Down mayors, while council premises in Newtownards are lined with the faces of former Ards mayors. Council officials propose the photographs and portraits from both legacy councils are taken down and replaced with Ards and North Down Borough Council Mayoral and Member Group photographs from 2015 onwards.

Alderman Robert Gibson, who has spent 33 years in council, said it's a turn-off to Ards councillors to come into Bangor Town Hall for meetings and see only portraits of North Down mayors.

However, Mr Gibson, who was twice mayor of the old Ards council, doesn't want all the mayoral portraits removed and put into storage, as suggested.

The full council also rejected that and the matter is set to be considered again by the corporate services committee.

"We have got used to them being displayed; when we go to meetings in North Down, there are all the North Down mayor's pictures and none of the Ards mayor's pictures," he said.

"There has to be some sort of resolution to it. They were photographs, not paintings, but they were done to a very high standard and we posed for them with our robes and chains on."

At a meeting of the council's corporate services committee on April 17, councillors heard the council had been through a "period of significant change" since the merger in April 2015.

Robes from each legacy council have been offered to existing members, with Mr Gibson among the number to claim their personalised robes.

The mayoral and deputy mayoral robes from each council are currently on display in the North Down Museum, and any not claimed will be offered to a local theatre company or suitable organisation.

A spokeswoman for Ards and North Down Borough Council revealed how some other legacy items have been used by the new council.

"The legacy Ards mace continues to be used as a ceremonial mace for civic events - it precedes the mayor at any civic procession. Legacy North Down did not have a mace," she said.

"The legacy Ards chain continues to be used by the Mayor of Ards and North Down.

"The legacy North Down chain is used by the deputy mayor, also with a new pendant."

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