Paul Hamill: Tributes after DUP councillor's death

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Paul Hamill in 2018
Image caption,
Paul Hamill was a former mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey

Tributes have been paid to the Democratic Unionist Party councillor Paul Hamill, who has died aged 46.

It is understood Mr Hamill died after contracting Covid-19.

Mr Hamill was a member of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council and served as its mayor from June 2017 to May 2018.

In the months leading up to his death, Mr Hamill had regularly shared Covid-sceptic and anti-vaccine views on social media.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) described him as a "hard-working and dedicated representative" and said his loss would be "keenly felt".

"Paul brought wide experience to his role as a public representative having worked in industry before spending many years as a pastor," Sir Jeffrey said.

"Those skills and experience made him an invaluable part of our council team.

"We in the Democratic Unionist Party have lost a dear friend and colleague, but my thoughts are with Paul's wife Ruth, his children and the wider family circle at this most difficult time."

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DUP peer Lord Dodds said he was "devastated" by the news.

"I have known him since before he was an elected representative and even before he joined the DUP," he said.

"Throughout that time, he has been a tower of strength to me personally and to the party within north Belfast.

"Paul was a tireless worker for the people of Rathcoole and the wider Newtownabbey area. He touched the lives of many people during his time as a local councillor and he will be greatly missed by everyone in the area."

'Devastating'

The current Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Billy Webb from the Alliance Party, released a statement on behalf of the council.

"It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of our colleague, Councillor Paul Hamill who sadly lost his battle with Covid," Mr Webb said.

"Many of us counted on him as a friend regardless of party affiliation, he treated everyone with great kindness, and will be greatly missed."

Image caption,
Paul Hamill speaking to the BBC in 2015

The mayor added that he would open a "virtual book of condolence" on Wednesday and invited "everyone who knew Paul to leave a message paying tribute to his memory and many accomplishments".

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) members of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council also expressed their sympathy.

"On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party I extend my sincere sympathies to Paul's wife Ruth, their children and extended family," said Alderman Mark Cosgrove.

"I also offer my condolences to Paul's colleagues. This is devastating news for them all and is hard to take in. Paul will be sadly missed by his family and many friends."

Sinn Féin councillor Anne Marie Logue, who sits on the council, said Mr Hamill was a "true gentleman" and would be "fondly remembered for his work in community relations".

Before he entered politics, Mr Hamill worked for Belfast City Mission as a missionary in Rathcoole.