Tributes have poured in for the serving mayor of Carrickfergus, Alderman Charlie Johnston, who died after an illness on Tuesday evening.
The DUP councillor had served 32 years as a public representative and four different terms as mayor.
Expressing sympathy to his family, First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “Charlie was someone deeply rooted in the local community and I know that his passing will be keenly felt by everyone in the Carrickfergus area.
“Charlie was also well known by many across the Province in his role with Carrick Rangers Football Club, and it was particularly poignant that the team were able to bring the Steel and Sons Cup to his bedside on Christmas Day.”
A statement from Carrickfergus Borough Council said that “despite suffering a long illness”, Mr Johnston had “continued to dutifully carry out the functions of his post as first citizen of the borough”. They said he was “one of the most experienced politicians that the council has had”.
Town clerk and chief executive of Carrickfergus Borough Council, Sheila McClelland, said: “Alderman Johnston possessed such a strength and tenacity of character which continued to be evident through his protracted illness. He was a bastion of Carrickfergus Borough Council and a very experienced and astute politician.”
DUP MLA David Hilditch extended his sympathies to Mr Johnston’s widow Patricia, son Samuel, daughter Charlene and wider family circle.
“It’s a very sad day for the borough, which Charlie loyally served for many years,” he said.
“As well as a councillor, he was active in a wide range of organisations including the Orange and with Carrick Rangers. My thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.”
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said that as well as being a public representative and civic leader in Carrickfergus for many years “Charles was an unashamedly proud Orangeman”.
He said: “He was a long-serving member of Woodburn Ebenezer LOL 787 and previously served as a senior officer with the Junior Orange Association. Last autumn, in his role as mayor, Charles kindly presided over the launch of the Williamite ABC poster for schools, and despite his illness continued to carry out his civic duties with a selfless sense of duty.
“His passing is a great loss to the entire community of Carrickfergus.”
His funeral service will take place in Carrickfergus Methodist Church at 2pm on Friday.