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World bike champion Jonathan Rea given top honour

Jonathan Rea

Triple World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea said he is "honoured" to be awarded the first freedom of Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Rea was given the accolade following unanimous support from councillors at Antrim and Newtownabbey Council.

The 31-year-old from Ballyclare was runner-up in last year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year and was given an MBE.

Ulster Unionist David Arthurs proposed the Freedom of the Borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey, which was seconded by DUP councillor Tim Girvan.

It was passed with unanimous support.

Rea, who equalled Carl Fogarty's record for victories in World Superbikes at Imola at the weekend, said: "Growing up in Ballyclare has had some very special memories for me so it is a real honour to be the first person to be given the Freedom of the Borough since the two legacy councils merged.

"I am very grateful for all the support I get from my fans, especially those from home who travel all over the world to come and watch me race.

"It's been an amazing weekend at Imola, winning both races and leading the championship now by 42 points.

"I can't wait to come back to Northern Ireland later this week, to soak up all the North West 200 has to offer and ride in the parade lap this Saturday."

Mr Arthurs said: "Jonathan is at the very top of his sport and as members of this council and as residents of this borough we should be very, very proud of his achievements to date."

Belfast Telegraph