Ulster Unionists have led tributes to the public service record of a former councillor who died in a north Antrim tractor accident yesterday.
John Hanna, 66, who was well known in the Banbridge area having been an elected representative for an area including Scarva for many years, was killed when his vehicle overturned on the Ballinlea Road near Ballintoy around 3.45pm.
Party leader Mike Nesbitt described his former colleague as “an exemplary public servant” who achieved much for those living in the Scarva area. Mr Hanna, who was married to North Antrim UUP councillor Joan Baird, stepped down from Banbridge Council earlier this year.
Mr Nesbitt said: “John remained grounded in his community for whom he secured many significant funding opportunities to improve facilities and resources right across the area. I have no doubt that he will be fondly remembered for this for many years to come.” UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said Mr Hanna will be “dearly missed” by the Banbridge community.
Mrs Dobson added: “I spent last Thursday evening in John’s company with the members of RBP 1000 at the launch of the Royal 13th at Scarva and know that he was, as always, looking forward to taking part in this year’s event. While John is no longer with us his long legacy of public service will live on.”
North Antrim MLA Robin Swann said: “I had known John for many years, especially through his wife and North Antrim party colleague Joan. He was a remarkable character who was not afraid to speak his mind but it was clear that public service was in his DNA. He will be greatly missed.”
Chairman of the party’s Upper Bann Association Desmond Kerr said Mr Hanna had remained active within both the UUP and the local community despite having officially retired as a councillor.
“I know I speak for all those members of the party in Upper Bann when I say we are deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic death of John. John was a loyal, long serving and dedicated local councillor in the Banbridge area up until his retirement at the end of March this year.
“John recently had the pleasure of accompanying his wife, Joan, to Buckingham Palace where she received her OBE.
“We know John was very proud of Joan’s achievements and this was a highlight for both of them.”
DUP MLA Mervyn Storey has also paid tribute to a long-serving community representative who was “respected across the political divide”.
Mr Storey added: “The death of John Hanna came as a huge shock to me personally and also to all in the locality. I can assure his wife Joan and their family circle of my prayerful support as they deal with this tragedy.”
Causeway Coast and Glens Independent Councillor Padraig McShane has also expressed his condolences to his Councillor Baird on her tragic loss. Cllr McShane described Mr Hanna was a “larger than life character” and said: “I recently met John at the Ballintoy vintage tractor rally where he sailed through the village saluting all the onlookers with an endearing and jovial style that was unique to himself.”
The SDLP in Upper Bann said the former councillor was “a truly decent man”.