The family of Causeway Coast & Glens Councillor Alderman John Finlay have announced the death of the loyal and much-respected figure of local politics.
Alderman Finlay has represented the DUP since been elected to Ballymoney Borough Council in 1998, before transitioning to the new Causeway Coast and Glens super Council in 2015, topping the polls on that occasion.
Stalwart of the party, John not only worked for his constituents as a local counsellor, he also contributed many hours within the local DUP office in Ballymoney, working for friend and party colleague Mervyn Storey before the former North Antrim MLA lost his seat in the Northern Ireland assembly election in May this year.
The Ballymoney Councillor was not only a familiar face within the village he called home —Cloughmills — but also throughout the borough representing his, and unashamedly, other Councillors constituents.
As a dedicated supporter of DUP founder — the late Dr Ian Paisley — John continued his faithful support of the Paisley family through Dr Paisley’s son and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley junior.
Speaking this morning Mr Paisley said: “This morning my dear friend and colleague Cllr John Finlay passed away. I and all his friends are heartbroken and sad to lose such a dedicated colleague and friend.
“John was an active public servant. He loved his role as a councillor. He took his job seriously and was an example to his colleagues.
“He was a faithful and dependable friend. John was amongst my closest friends. He held the post of chairman of the North Antrim association for almost 20 years. He was totally dependable, utterly loyal and always had your back.
“He was a dedicated Christian. John’s Christian testimony was well known. He worshiped publicly and has deep Christian values. He was a great prayer worrier and supported many missionaries and church causes privately. He will be missed by them.
“I extend my thoughts and prayers to Linda and his daughters who know that John is with his Lord and saviour. They have lost a wonderful father and a loyal husband. John loved nothing more than being with his girls, enjoying their company and a good cup of coffee.
“Our hearts are broken for his family and their loss.”
John had been receiving treatment in 2021 after a cancer diagnosis but announced earlier this year that unfortunately the cancer has returned, asking for prayers at that time.
Despite John‘s Cancer diagnosis, he continued his council work, as well as recently knocking on doors for Mervyn Storey as part of his recent canvassing campaign for the assembly election.
During the recent annual general meeting if council, John had the privilege of presenting the chain of office to the new Mayor, friend and party colleague Ivor Wallace, a position John himself was supposed to take up before ill health prevented him from doing so.
DUP Cllr Alan McLean has paid tribute to his colleague and friend.
Cllr Mclean said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of John’s death. Although he has been ill for some time, John carried himself with great dignity and grace until the end. My immediate thoughts and prayers are with his wife Linda and his daughters, Naomi and Rebekah, who will feel the heavy weight of grief and mourning at this time.
“John Finlay was a staunch unionist who was passionate about his party, the DUP, and the people of Ballymoney who he represented for over two decades. He was synonymous with the DUP in Ballymoney and was consistently rewarded by the people for his first-rate work ethic. As a proud member of Dunloy LOL 496, John never shied away from expressing his Protestant faith and regularly preached the good news of the Gospel at services and events across Northern Ireland. Yet despite his strongly held religious beliefs, John was committed to working for all those he represented regardless of their background.
“As a DUP family, we will miss his presence greatly but we take comfort in the knowledge that John is now rejoicing in Heaven with the Saviour he loved so much.
“Ballymoney has lost a political heavyweight. I pray that his family will know God’s love and comfort in the difficult weeks and months ahead.”
Councillor Wallace paid tribute to John, saying: “My friend and colleague John has now met his saviour face to face. He has already heard the well done.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Linda and the girls as well as to all my party colleagues who are all devastated.
“It’s hard to believe we will never have all the wee Finlayisms that we were so used to.
“With Christ which is far better.”
Following the announcement of Mr Finlay’s passing, tributes have continued to pour in across social media for the much liked and respected Councillor.
Commenting on the passing of Alderman John Finlay former North Antrim DUP MLA and personal friend Mervyn Storey said: “While not unexpected, it still came with a great sense of sadness the news of Johns passing.
“John was a one off and in every sense of the word one of kind.
“Not for John to be conventional, he had his own particular way of doing things.
“However it is the case that we will not have another public representative like him in elected office.
“I have known John for well over 30 years, we both served on Ballymoney Borough Council from 2001 until I left the Council in 2014. During that time John served as Mayor on a number of occasions. When I was elected to the NI Assembly in 2003 John came to work in my constituency office where he remained until I was not returned in 2022. He was dedicated to his constituents and his constituency work.
“John was a DUP man through and through. Even when he disagreed with the Party he still remained faithful and committed.
“He was a devoted member of the Orange Order, Apprentice Boys and Royal Black Institution, all of which meet in Dunloy Orange Hall.
“John lead the opposition to the relentless attacks on the Loyal Orders in the village that has denied them their civil rights to parade to their place of worship and the countless attacks on the Hall.
“John will be missed by me and my colleagues in the DUP. I know from speaking to people during his time of illness that he will also be greatly missed by his many friends and constituents.
“He endured his fight with cancer as a witness to his personal saving faith in Christ and I know that for him it is absent from the body and present with the Lord.
“To his wife Linda, daughters Naomi and Rebecka and the entire family circle, I extend my Christian sympathy and assure them of our thoughts and prayers at this time of great loss.”
UUP Councillor Darryl Wilson wrote: “Deeply saddened to learn that Alderman John Finlay has passed away.
“John was quite open about his battle with illness in recent times, he fought valiantly until the end, comforted and buoyed by his deep Christian faith.
“His contribution to local government in this area is quite simply exceptional. He will leave a void that will be virtually impossible to fill. His work ethic and commitment to public service has set an incredibly high bar for his peers.
“I would like to express my heartfelt deepest sympathies to John’s entire family circle, his party colleagues and all impacted by this sad loss.”
John is survived by his wife Linda and two daughters Rebecka & Naomi. The Ballymoney bubble would like to extend our deepest sympathies to them and the wider Finlay family.