Council insists there was ‘no intent to cause offence’ after DUP alderman’s PR gaffe at Jubilee party
The mayor of Antrim & Newtownabbey has been left red-faced after posing for a picture with convicted criminals at a publicly-funded Jubilee party.
DUP Alderman Stephen Ross attended a party for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in the Rathcoole housing estate in Newtownabbey, earlier this month.
While attending the royal celebration, Mr Ross posed for a picture with a group including two men with serious criminal convictions for rioting and robbery.
In the image Mr Ross can be seen looking at the ground while convicted rioter Ronnie ‘Spiderman’ Nelson and robber James Boreland smile at the camera.
Also featured in the picture is Andy Tyrie Jnr who was put out of the Ballybeen estate in Dundonald, Co Down, in 2019 following clashes with loyalists.
After he fled it was revealed £40,000 had gone missing from the coffers of a charity organisation he was running on the estate. Mr Tyrie denies any wrongdoing in relation to the incident.
Some families who turned up to the event were outraged by the presence of the trio. A source told this newspaper: “Some families in the community are really disgusted, they went to a fun-day only to be met by Ronnie Nelson, James Boreland and Andy Tyrie.
“A rioter, a robber and a fugitive. Tyrie was put out of Ballybeen by the UVF only to land in Rathcoole under the protection of the SEA UDA.
“One lady said she brought her kids down only to realise these three men were there... and turned on her heels and left.”
Ronnie Nelson was jailed for three years in 2014 for pelting cops with bricks while wearing a Spiderman mask during a loyalist riot on the estate the year before.
James Boreland, who also uses the surname Blair, was jailed for just over two years in 2013 for robbing a Centra armed with a broken bottle during a loyalist flag riot.
His defence lawyer branded the crime “fundamentally stupid” in court at the time after it was revealed Boreland, who covered his face with a scarf during the robbery, had visited the store earlier the same day and was caught on CCTV.
Andy Tyrie Jnr, a grandson of the former supreme commander of the UDA of the same name, was booted out of Ballybeen by the UVF amid a row over thousands of pounds of cash which vanished from the Ballybeen Men’s Motivational Group (BMMG) in 2019.
Speaking at the time he said: “I left Ballybeen when my house was attacked in June, I know nothing about any fraud.”
Following the disappearance of the money the National Lottery froze funding for BMMG and carried out an investigation before passing their findings on to the PSNI.
A spokesperson for The National Lottery Community Fund said: “This issue in relation to Ballybeen Men’s Motivational Group is now in the hands of the PSNI — we’re doing everything we can to help them with the investigation.
“We cannot comment any further at this time other than to say that it’s important that the grants we make are used for the purpose stated and to help the community as intended.”
The PSNI confirmed an investigation into the matter is ongoing. A spokesman said: “Police have received a report in relation to an organisation based in Dundonald and an investigation is ongoing. There are no further details at this time.”
In a statement issued by the council on his behalf, Alderman Stephen Ross said he did not “intend to cause upset” by posing with the three men. A spokesman said: “The mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey can attend up to a thousand events throughout a term in office.
“During these events both unplanned and official photographs are taken of the mayor with various people, not all of whom are known to the mayor.
“In relation to the photograph, this was not pre-arranged by the mayor, Alderman Stephen Ross, or council officers and there was no intention whatsoever by the mayor to cause upset to anyone in respect of the photograph.
“The council offered funding up to a maximum of £1,000 to community groups in the borough wishing to host their own Platinum Jubilee celebrations.”
The council did not respond when asked whether or not Alderman Ross wanted to apologise having been made aware of the identities of the men he was pictured with.
When contacted by Sunday Life about his role in the Jubilee party, Ronnie ‘Spiderman’ Nelson said it was “low” and “ridiculous” to report on his convictions before threatening this newspaper with legal action.
Sunday Life tried to contact Alderman Ross directly but got no response. We also asked the DUP for comment but got no reply.