Connect with us

Mid and East Antrim

Mum’s Hobby to Help with Brain Injury Now a Thriving Employer in Ballymena

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Business Client Manager, Ally McGarry, with the Chique Unique team.

Breathing new life into pre-loved furniture has remained the focus of the Ballymena based Chique Unique from the days when the thriving family business was merely a welcome outlet for Shauna O’Neill’s rehabilitation after she suffered a major brain injury caused by meningitis.

Mum of three Shauna took to restoring and painting items of furniture bought in charity shops as a way of keeping her mind busy, never thinking that, one day, her ‘hobby’ would become a successful company which, in the last year, has expanded to new premises and whose workforce is growing month on month.

As the business evolved, Shauna and husband Declan saw a potential in the kitchen refurb market.

Eventually Declan left his full-time job of 14 years to join the business, and the couple now offer the full kitchen makeover including painting, worktops, modifications and much more.

Orders for Chique Unique’s highly sought after kitchen respraying service come in from all over Ireland and such is the level of demand for that particular aspect of their expertise, it is all hands to the deck for Shauna, her husband Declan, and their team of craftsmen.

The local firm is one of the success stories which has benefited from mentoring and specialist business advice under Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Business Escalator and Escalator Plus Programmes – which are part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

Council’s Business Client Manager, Ally McGarry, initially made contact with Declan and Shauna to assess the type of support the business would benefit from, including mentoring and help with social media content and marketing.

This resulted in an immediate increase in the number of requests for quotes and enquiries, which, in turn, led to more sales.

Shauna, who was then supported with Financial Management mentoring, in order to plan for the future, encourages other local businesses to avail of the support available from the council.

“The help for growing businesses was something we were not aware of until we were contacted by Ally. We discussed with him issues that we had within our business such as organisation, delegation and knowledge of social media and targeting our potential customers.

“We signed up to the Business Escalator Programme and received support on the use of social media and creating posts to reach our target market. This programme helped us immensely.

“We feel much more competent using Facebook and Instagram. Our posts have created more engagement with our target market and we have benefited from a massive increase in the number of followers.

“Following this success, we were eager to see what other support was on offer to assist us with the day to day running of our business. We got assigned another mentor to help with Financial Management and Accounts.

“This helped us deal with the high volume of enquiries and demand for quotes more efficiently and we also looked at the use of spreadsheets to prepare our yearly accounts. We tweaked the systems we already had in place, which enabled us to reduce the time and paperwork previously spent preparing our accounts using Microsoft Excel, something we were never competent in using before.

“The mentors were so supportive and helpful throughout every stage of the programme. From the first contact with them, we discussed any issues we felt we had and required help with and they came back to us with recommendations and valuable advice. They worked alongside us and supported us, helping us put these plans into place and continually followed up with us to ensure they were working well.

“Our business has continued to grow and we are delighted to be in the position to recruit more staff. We have also secured new contracts which will take our business to another level and are confident that the knowledge and skills we acquired through the programmes will enable us to service these contracts successfully and continue to expand our ever-growing business.”

Chique Unique are currently looking to increase the workforce to meet the large demand for their services and currently have opportunities open for fitters, sprayers and joiner. If interested please contact Shauna by email at

Mid and East Antrim

New £1m Sullatober Household Recycling Centre Project Takes Another Step Forward

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr William McCaughey, looks over the plans at Sullatober HRC along with Site Manager, Jessica Stronge from CIVCO.

Plans for a new £1million waste recycling facility in Carrickfergus, have taken another step forward with the closure of the existing site from Saturday 2 October at 5pm.

Residents who currently use the facility will be asked to travel to Larne South Household Recycling Centre (HRC), located at Island Road Lower, Islandmagee from Monday 4 October until early 2022.

Please note that it is necessary to book an appointment to gain access to Larne South HRC. This can be done using Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s online booking system by contacting 0300 124 5000 (Option 0).

The new Sullatober Household Recycling Centre, when completed, will be more than double the size of the existing facility to cater for some 40,000 residents. The new facility will be located directly opposite the current recycling site.

As well as increasing the amount of waste segregation by over 20%, the new facility will help Council to divert over 1,000 tonnes of waste from landfill each year.

The development will also result in more efficient waste compaction and haulage, with new material streams for recycling and a reduction in carbon emissions.

Planning approval was granted in December 2020, with Council securing £995,000 in funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for the project.

Work commenced at the site in May 2021 and is expected to last until February 2022.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, welcomed the progress made on the project.

“The new Sullatober Household Recycling Centre will provide a much more efficient service for the residents of Carrickfergus, and is a welcome milestone in Council’s key strategic aim of creating a sustainable and healthy local environment which is protected for future generations.

“By increasing segregation of waste and the quality of materials collected, the new Recycling Centre will support local processors and the circular economy of Northern Ireland.

“The closure of the existing Sullatober recycling centre from Saturday 2 October at 5pm, will allow for construction works to progress. We are pleased to continue providing a recycling centre service to Carrickfergus and the surrounding areas through provision at Larne South Household Recycling Centre, into early 2022.

“Thank you to our local residents for their patience while the work is ongoing.”

Continue Reading

Mid and East Antrim

Local Groups in Mid and East Antrim celebrate ‘Brighter Days Ahead’ for Young People

Pictured with The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey is Martin McDonald, Chair of The Community Relations Council and Sophie Grier and Evie Dorrian from Uplift Performing Arts.

Local Groups in Mid and East Antrim will celebrate the peace building and cultural diversity efforts of young people and the challenges they face with a creative programme of cross-community and multicultural events as part of Good Relations Week 2021.

Good Relations Week 2021, co-ordinated by the Community Relations Council, will run from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th September, with a mix of arts, history, music, sport and culture-based events from a diverse range of organisations across the region.

This year’s colourful programme will include the return of face-to-face events, alongside an expanded online offering of virtual events and digital content. This will include workshops, lectures, panel discussions, feature talks, podcasts, film, music and dance performances, storytelling and exhibitions.

The theme for Good Relations Week 2021 is ‘Brighter Days Ahead’ which celebrates the efforts of young people in their everyday lives to break down barriers, unite communities and act as a catalyst for peace building and cultural diversity in our society.

It will explore how society can better meet the needs of young people and explore the issues affecting their culturally diverse lives today, including sectarianism and racism, dealing with the continuing impact of the past, mental health, isolation, education, faith, the pandemic, and the environment.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr William McCaughey said: “We’re proud to be supporting Good Relations Week for yet another year. We hope this week of events will inspire new ideas and promote respect and understanding in our future generations. Armed with these skills and knowledge, there is no stopping our young people.

“Good Relations Week is an excellent opportunity to celebrate all aspects of our culture and heritage, promote cultural diversity and work together to address sectarianism and racism. It’s also important for many young people who have faced isolation this past year, to reconnect and learn from their peers to foster a future that is truly beneficial to them and their local communities.”

Martin McDonald MBE, Chair of the Community Relations Council, says: “Good Relations Week 2021 will showcase over 200 highly entertaining events that will shine a light on ground-breaking projects and initiatives that tackle sectarianism and racism and promote cultural diversity – all aimed at building brighter days ahead for everyone.

“We are delighted that over 100 different event and content organisers have embraced our ‘Brighter Days Ahead’ theme and helped to shape a truly remarkable Good Relations Week 2021 that demonstrates imagination, enthusiasm, and commitment to building a united community in our everyday lives.”

Jacqueline Irwin, Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council adds: Huge thanks to everyone who has contributed to this year’s dynamic programme of events, helping to make Good Relations Week a modern celebration of our diverse culture and heritage.

“We are once again thrilled to be able to deliver this showcase of cross community and multi-cultural arts, history, music and culture. We have a packed programme of face-to-face and virtual events, as well as online material. There is so much to attend, watch and experience, don’t miss it! I would encourage everyone to plan their week of events by checking out the programme at”

Good Relations Week is co-ordinated by the Community Relations Council and supported by The Executive Office. It contributes to delivering the Together: Building a United Community Strategy. The Community Relations Council co-ordinates the week with the support of a Steering Committee comprising of The Executive Office, Department for Communities, Department of Justice, Education Authority, Libraries NI, Cathedral Quarter Trust and The Nerve Centre.

For more information on the Good Relations Week 2021 programme of events visit www.goodrelationsweek.comor keep up to date on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #GRW2021.

Continue Reading