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It's holiday time - so just where will Northern Ireland's politicians be going for their summer getaway?

Published 08/07/2016

Chicago in the USA
Chicago in the USA
Berlin, Germany
Connemara, Ireland
Sammy Wilson on his motorbike

You might think that our political representatives never take a break, given that they appear in the newspapers, on radio and television practically every day. However, as Suzanne Breen discovers, they enjoy a little vacation every bit as much as the rest of us.

Jim Rodgers (73), UUP councillor for East Belfast, is married to Greta. He says:

My wife, Greta, and I are going to Puerto Pollensa in Majorca for the 24th consecutive year. It's a fishing village with a beautiful harbour that developed into a resort. Everybody there knows us by now, and we also know everybody. We meet up with friends there from all parts of the UK.

I love Majorca because it's only a three-hour direct flight from Belfast, and you're guaranteed wall-to-wall sun. I don't really tour about the island too much, I just like to relax on a sunbed while on the beach.

But I never switch off my phone. I'll take calls and read texts on the beach. I made a promise to the electorate that I'd be available 24/7, and I keep it even on holiday. I'm not a drinker, but we go to the lovely town square at night and I'll have a coke or an orange.

The entertainment is first-class. It's great to see the Spanish dancers. On the dancefloor, I'm the John Travolta of Puerto Pollensa. There's always a queue of women behind Greta asking me for a wee dance.

Claire Hanna (36), SDLP MLA for South Belfast, is married to Donal Lyons and they have two daughters Eimear and Aideen. She says:

I was born in Galway and lived there until I was four. We've kept our family home a few miles outside the city, and that's where I'm heading on my holidays. You're looking out at Galway Bay from your living-room... it's just perfect.

There's a beach a mile away. My children can run through the fields like I did as a child before my mum and dad swapped an idyllic rural spot for Belfast in the 1980s. My daughters, Eimear and Aideen, are so excited. Every day they ask, "When are we going to Galway?"

Of course, I'll pack raincoats and wellies for them. The Connemara weather is so unpredictable. On a fine sunny afternoon, there's nowhere on earth I'd rather be than Galway. But I don't mind the wild days really. They're an excuse to light the fire and do nothing.

Sammy Wilson (63,), DUP MP for East Antrim, is single. He says:

To prove that I'm not a xenophobe, I'm taking my post-Brexit holidays in Spain. The Brussels bureaucrats may have wrecked the economy of southern Europe, but they still haven't yet managed to take away the sun.

Since global warming hasn't sufficiently warmed Northern Ireland, it's the Costa del Sol for me. I'll be converting my pound notes into that decadent currency, the euro. I go abroad most years, but I don't care where I go. As long as it's somewhere hot and sunny and I've got my books, I'm happy.

And it's factor 0 for me because what's the point of heading to the sun and then not making the most of it?

I'm bringing detective novels, Ross O'Carroll-Kelly books, which are hilarious, and a biography of Tony Blair.

I'm won't trot out a politically correct line about how I'll immerse myself in Spanish culture, because I won't do that. When I was a teacher, I used to travel about Europe on my motorbike in the summer.

I loved every minute of it because it was a really great way to meet people and learn about their country, but I'm too old for that now. These days, I just like to unwind on holidays and cook a bit. I'll do something on the barbecue because If I'm burnt, then the food may as well be too!

Jim Allister (63), TUV leader, is married to Ruth and they have three grown up-children, a daughter and two sons. He says:

I'm going to Chicago, the Windy City, with my wife, Ruth. After that, we'll fly to Denver and from there drive to Yellowstone Park. We'll take in Mount Rushmore on the way. I'll probably drive more than 2,000 miles during our two-week trip, but I don't mind. I like travelling to new places and exploring. I enjoy beautiful scenery. My son works for an international media agency in New York, and he's coming to Chicago to see us.

I love America, the vastness of it. You don't bump into people you know. It's very different to walking down Main Street in Portrush.

I've been to Florida, Missouri, the Carolinas, Washington, Virginia, San Francisco and many other places in the US. I'm not a huge fan of New York - it's too claustrophobic.

I don't mind a bit of beach time, but not too much. I prefer to be active. I'm sure Ruth will drag me around the shopping malls at some point. I'm most looking forward to seeing all the old geysers in Yellowstone Park - they'll remind me of all the old geezers at home!

Naomi Long (44), Alliance Party deputy leader, is married to Michael. She says:

My summer holidays, like my life, will revolve around my dog Daisy. My husband Michael and I are taking her off to Donegal. Michael's parents have a house in Malin Head, and they don't mind a messy dog and messy people.

Daisy is very sociable. She loves nothing better than running around the beach, meeting new dogs and new people. It's heaven for her.

Michael and I went to France in June to see Northern Ireland play in Lyon. Then we drove to Paris via Geneva. For our 20th wedding anniversary last year, we went on a round-the-world trip. We took in California, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It got the wanderlust out of our system.

As someone who has lived all her life in the city, I just adore the sheer remoteness of Donegal. It's really ideal for rest and relaxation. It blows all the cobwebs away. I also enjoy the fresh air and going for long walks. And it's also far nicer to be staying in a house than in a hotel. There's a kitchen where I can cook. I like Caribbean food, something nice and spicy. Nothing too complicated though - just jambalaya or a stir-fry. The trick in cooking, and also in holidays, is to keep it simple.

Eamonn McCann (73), People Before Profit MLA for Foyle, lives with his partner, Goretti Horgan. He says:

Birthdays and holidays are just things that I really don't do. I don't like holidays because I just don't see the point in them. You come back home and there's all this extra stuff to be done since you've been away. What's the use of that?

I suppose that I don't enjoy holidays because I find having nothing to do frustrating. But I'm going to Berlin this weekend to speak at a conference about the future of the Left in the EU.

I've heard that it's a really vibrant city with lots of interesting things happening. It's meant to have good art galleries so, if I get the chance I might visit a few.

But really the most beautiful place in the world to me is Gortin Glen and the Sperrin Mountains. That's where I'd really like to spend more time.

Clare Bailey (45,) Green Party MLA for South Belfast, has a son and daughter, Brian and Jude. She says:

I'm hoping to go to Crete, but, unfortunately my passport is out of date. I have no chance of getting an Irish one through quickly with the deluge there's been for them after Brexit.

If I can get a British one organised, however, then I'll be heading to my Greek island paradise. All the changes and chaos that the people of Greece have been through recently makes me sad.

I fell in love with Crete - the smells, the food, the heat, the attitude - in 2008. I took my son and daughter, Brian and Jude, there on our first family holiday.

Everybody was extremely kind. I was a single parent with two kids, and the people of Crete treated me like a queen. They stole my heart with their character. They are full of fire, friendliness and great passion.

The beaches are gorgeous, and if you hire a car, in no time at all you can lose yourself up those mountains. To describe the island as postcard-perfect doesn't even do it justice.

Brian and Jude were at primary school on that trip and they're teenagers now, but I know that it will be another great family holiday.

If I wasn't bringing them, I'd be doing a Shirley Valentine and heading out to Crete for an adventure on my own. I don't know if even the lure of Stormont would be enough to bring me home!

Belfast Telegraph

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