Robin Swann and Andrew Wright, two leading North Antrim Ulster Unionist Association officers, have used the UUP’s traditional Burns Night Supper to encourage the community “to get involved with Northern Ireland’s rich Ulster-Scots culture.
Mr Swann is North Antrim UUP Chairman while Mr Wright is North Antrim UUP Secretary.
The two UUP men issued their joint appeal as the North Antrim UUP Association recently hosted one of the best-attended and most successful Burns Night events when dozens of members and guests packed Clough Masonic Hall, near Ballymena, for the annual supper.
Members and friends from across the North Antrim constituency and beyond made the event one of the best-ever social and cultural UUP functions in recent months.
The event was organized by local UUP branches from the Ballymena region.
The event was chaired by Mr Swann, the North Antrim UUP Assembly member. Guests and members were welcomed to the event by Mr Jimmy McClean, the Chairman of Kellswater UUP Branch.
Councillor Darryl Wilson, the Deputy Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, said grace.
The traditional ceremony of the address to the haggis was expertly given by Assemblyman Swann, who is also the UUP Chief Whip. The Toast to the Immortal Memory of poet Rabbie Burns was given by Councillor Robbie Butler from Lisburn and Castlereagh Council in the Lagan Valley constituency.
The Toast to the Lasses was proposed by Mr Wright, who is also Chairman of Ahoghill UUP Branch, and the Response from the Lasses given by Councillor Mrs Jenny Palmer, of Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, who again demonstrated her ability to stand up for the Lassies.
In their joint statement, Assemblyman Swann and Mr Wright said that the various events held around the constituency, Northern Ireland and further afield to commemorate the life and legacy of Rabbie Burns were examples of “rich cultural expression”.
They added: “We both had the pleasure and honour of roles in this important cultural evening in North Antrim and to chat to the large crowd of friends and members.
“It turned out to be a very memorable night for all who attended with an excellent programme of entertainment, which included a range of musical entertainment, with the skirl of the bagpipes, especially when the ceremony of piping the haggis into the hall took place.
“The highlights of the evening were a number of recitals of Robert Burns’ renowned poetry. We congratulate everyone for all their efforts in making the evening such an excellent spectacle of culture enjoyed by the community at large.
“The life and talents of Rabbie Burns have far reaching consequences to this day. He was quite literally a genius with words and this no doubt was a major factor in making him so appealing with the ladies.
“Rabbie Burns was not an establishment figure; his poetry was designed to challenge. He was a man ahead of his time, he believed in the equality of man and it is this trait in particular that we find most appealing of the man.
“We wanted to use this traditional annual Burns Night Supper to encourage the entire community to get involved with their rich Ulster-Scots heritage and culture,” concluded Mr Swann and Mr Wright.