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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson leads tributes to ‘passionate unionist’ John Finlay after DUP councillor’s death


John Finlay.

John Finlay.

John Finlay.

A veteran DUP councillor who died after a battle with cancer has been described as “a passionate unionist”.

Ballymoney representative John Finlay had revealed in June that his illness was untreatable, but had continued on with his duties.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson led tributes, saying Mr Finlay was dedicated to his local community.

“I am deeply saddened by John’s passing and I want to pass my sincere sympathies to Linda and their two daughters,” he said. 

"John was a passionate unionist, but was ultimately guided by his deep faith and I hope the certainty of that faith will be of comfort to them in these difficult days.

“Even through his illness he continued to be at the heart of the community and to carry out his council duties. Just a few weeks ago John once again took his place in front of Dunloy Orange Lodge and led them as Worshipful Master through the streets of Bushmills. As chairman of our North Antrim Association, he was both a source of encouragement and support during the recent Assembly election.”

He added: “John will be greatly missed by everyone in the Party, and particularly by all those who worked most closely with him.”

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Party chairman Lord Morrow called him “a faithful party member” over many decades.

He first stood for election to the former Down District Council in 1989, elected to represent Newcastle in 1993, before being elected to the Bann Valley area of Ballymena Borough Council in 2005.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said he and others were “heartbroken” to lose such a dedicated colleague and friend.

“John was an active public servant. He loved his role as a councillor. He took his job seriously and was an example to his colleagues,” he said.

“He was a faithful and dependable friend. John was amongst my closest friends. He held the post of chairman of the North Antrim association for almost 20 years. He was totally dependable, utterly loyal and always had your back.”

Describing him as a dedicated Christian, Mr Paisley said Mr Finlay had supported many missionaries and church causes privately.

“I extend my thoughts and prayers to Linda and his daughters who know that John is with his Lord and saviour,” he said. 

"They have lost a wonderful father and a loyal husband. John loved nothing more than being with his girls, enjoying their company and a good cup of coffee.

“Our hearts are broken for his family and their loss."

DUP councillor Alan McLean said his friend had carried himself “with great dignity and grace” until the end.

“John Finlay was a staunch unionist who was passionate about his party, the DUP, and the people of Ballymoney who he represented for over two decades,” he said. 

"He was synonymous with the DUP in Ballymoney and was consistently rewarded by the people for his first-rate work ethic.”

As a proud member of Dunloy LOL 496, he said his friend had “never shied away from expressing his Protestant faith” and regularly preached at events across Northern Ireland.

"Yet despite his strongly held religious beliefs, John was committed to working for all those he represented regardless of their background,” he said.

“Ballymoney has lost a political heavyweight. I pray that his family will know God’s love and comfort in the difficult weeks and months ahead.”

Posting on social media in June, Mr Finlay revealed that his cancer was untreatable and that he had only months to live.

“This is not the news I wanted to hear, but I want to continue to serve the people as best I can for as long as I can. So if you have any issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me,” he said.

While stating his future was now going to be “much shorter than I had hoped,” he said his Christian faith had been a great source of comfort.

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