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My people: we have a chat with SDLP MLA Claire Hanna

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 09/10/2015

Familiar role: Claire Hanna followed her mum into politics
Familiar role: Claire Hanna followed her mum into politics

The 35-year-old is an SDLP MLA and lives in her constituency of south Belfast with her husband Donal Lyons and their two children, Eimear (3) and Aideen (1).

My husband, Donal

We met at an environmental conference in Wales about 10 years ago when he was working for the Irish Labour Party and I was an SDLP delegate. He was still living in Dublin at the time and we didn't get together for another year. He moved to Belfast a year after that.

Donal is a Belfast City Councillor and works in public policy. People say that you're not supposed to talk about work at home, but we both live and breathe politics, so that would rule out just about every topic in our house.

We do make an effort to switch off at the weekends because we don't get the chance to during the week.

My children

Of course, my children have their moments, but they're really good company.

Eimear is my double in every way and it's terrifying - she even has the same mannerisms and turns of phrase that I do.

Aideen is a smiley wee blonde - she's not quite talking yet but she's babbling away, so I'm sure we'll hear from her soon.

My best friend

I'm really lucky to have a small group of very good friends, both from teenage years and that I've picked up along the way, but I really couldn't pick out just one. I'm at the "don't get out much" stage with young kids, so I value a catch up and yarn with friends whenever I can.

My parents

My mum Carmel was also an MLA and Minister for Employment and Learning at one point and my dad Eamon is an accountant, although he was also involved in politics.

Politics was certainly a big thing in our house as I was growing up and there was certainly an ethos of public service and a real family commitment to improving this place.

I have to say though, mum and dad are well aware of how bruising politics can be and wouldn't necessarily have encouraged me to go in that direction. Now that I'm in it full-time, they do encourage and support me.

I have a brother, Michael, and two sisters, Deirdre and Siobhan - I'm the youngest in the family.

Everyone is still around apart from Siobhan, who has lived in Los Angeles for the last 20 years, so we only get to see her twice a year, but we make the most of it.

My mentor

My auntie Mary, who lives in Finaghy. She's my godmother and has been an inspirational presence all through my life.

She didn't get the easiest lot in life, but is invariably positive, encouraging, life-affirming and creative.

She's full of great ideas and insights, and certainly doesn't mince her words when the need arises.

Person I go to for advice

I do go to my sister Deirdre for advice. I wouldn't last a week without her - she bails me out all the time with childcare and clothes advice and essentially makes sure I don't lose the run of myself.

I also have a brains trust - half a dozen people from different backgrounds that I bounce ideas off.

My celebrity crush

Barack Obama is very hard to look past. Also, our sister party, the Spanish socialists, have a very fine new leader in Pedro Sanchez.

Fantasy dinner party

I want my dinner party to be good craic.

So, first of all I'd invite comediennes Tina Fey and Amy Poehler because I love everything they do. They're incredibly funny women and I find them very inspiring.

Next, I would have both Jon Snow from Channel Four news and Jon Stewart, formerly of the Daily Show - the latter narrowly missed selection for my secret crush.

Finally, I'd invite Michael D Higgins, the President of Ireland. He's an internationalist, a passionate advocate of the arts, and worth listening to.

Belfast Telegraph

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