SINCERE, hardworking and fair - just some of the words used to describe outgoing SDLP councillor Gerry McLaughlin, as he attended his final Council meeting last Tuesday night.
Gerry has served the people of Coleraine for over 20 years, and at last Tuesday night’s meeting he admitted that he ‘didn’t know whether to laugh or cry’.
Gerry was first elected in 1997 and held his seat comfortably at four different elections.
Taking centre stage in the chamber, Gerry told members that he would ‘walk out of the chamber just as he walked in’ - for being a councillor had not changed him.
He shared advice that had been handed down to him by his father - ‘always keep a civil tongue in your head’ and told members that this advice had kept him in good stead in his 20 years and four months as a councillor.
Tributes came from all sides of the chamber for the bubbly Coleraine Central councillor.
Speaking on behalf of the Ulster Unionists on the Council, councillor Norman Hillis said: “We’re sorry to see you go.
“You’re of a good vintage as you joined the Council the same time as me.
“You are sincere, hardworking, fair and you have work tirelessly for the people of this Borough.
“Gerry did a lot of things that people don’t know about, and he will be missed here at Council,” said councillor Hillis.
The DUP’s Maurice Bradley described Gerry had a ‘true friend and colleague’ and said: “Councillor McLaughlin is a hard working man, a family man’
Councillor McLaughlin’s SDLP colleague, Maura Hickey told the chamber that they would miss Gerry.
She said: “ We rely on him for common sense, we have led from Gerry’s example.”
Alderman Hickey spoke about Gerry’s knowledge of tribunals and noted the successes he has had down through the years.
Independent councillor David McClarty described councillor McLaughlin as a ‘great friend’, and said: “He’s a Killowen man through and through, we’ve often heard wisdom from Gerry about old Killowen, he is a great friend to us all.
“Politics seldom got in the way of his decision making.”
Independent councillor Christine Alexander recalled her first years as a councillor, and described herself as ‘Gerry’s left wing’, as she used to sit next to him in the chamber. “I just want to thank Gerry for being a great friend,” she said.
Concluding the plaudits, the Mayor, councillor David Harding added: “We’ll really miss you Gerry.”
A formal reception will be held for councillor McLaughlin on behalf of Council in the coming months.