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People: MLA Jo-Anne Dobson on her special relationships

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

The 48-year-old lives with her husband John on their farm in Waringstown, and they have two sons, Elliott (24) and Mark (21). She is an Ulster Unionist MLA and has been selected as the candidate for Upper Bann in next year’s general election.

My husband, John

We met many years ago at a disco in Banbridge when I was just 16. It was at the Belmont Hotel and was the farmers' hangout.

We got married when I was 20 and I was a town girl and knew nothing about farming, though I soon learned about it.

John is my rock. He's so stable and always has an honest and sensible approach to things.

He'll always be there for me with an honest answer for anything.

My children, Elliott and Mark

I did everything backwards so I married young and had my children before my career got started.

Now, Elliott is living in London, having graduated from Cambridge University last year. He's working very hard as a trader for Deutsche Bank.

I do wish I'd get to see him more but Skype is wonderful for keeping in touch.

Mark had a kidney transplant when he was 15 and now works on the farm with his dad. A couple of days a week he volunteers for me in my office.

My best friends

One of my best friends is Wendy McRoberts, who I met at ante-natal class when I was pregnant with Mark. She's a dairy farmer from Donaghcloney and she's great craic. The best times are when she phones me on a Saturday night and asks me round for a Chinese and a giggle.

I also get to know a lot of people through my work and Lana Wells Gant is one of those. She lost her son Leo to meningitis when he was only two and is now campaigning to introduce a vaccine. She's become a really close friend and someone I know will always be there for me.

My parents, Joanie and Eric

My parents are like me and John as they married young. They used to run a plumbing and heating business in Banbridge and they're both retired now. I also have a sister, Belinda, who is two years older than me.

We're a very close family - Elliott is my maiden name and that's what I called my first son. We see each other all the time and my parents are very proud of what I've achieved. My mum is constantly sending people through to my constituency office. They are both so supportive and do everything, from putting up posters to leafleting.

My mentor

It's the Craigavon councillor Kenneth Twyble, who's a stalwart of the council. He's someone who took me under his wing and guided me when I was first elected to the council in 2010.

He has always provided me with great advice. I was out canvassing with him again this year and he knows absolutely everyone.

He's a man of strong faith and someone you can always ask for guidance. I'm very fortunate to have had him as a person to turn to from the start of my career.

My celebrity crush, Sting

Growing up as a teenager, I would have had posters of The Police on my bedroom wall. I also played their albums constantly.

Who I go to for advice

I go to John, of course, but the main person I would go to is my mum.

She is very straight and honest and any advice she gives hits you right between the eyes.

Fantasy dinner party

The first guests would have to be Mark's donor family - he had a kidney transplant when he was 15. We've been able to write to them anonymously, but I would love to be able to thank them personally for what they've given to us.

Of course, Mark would be at my side when I met them.

Next, I would invite Pink. I've seen her live in Dublin and she's such a strong female presence.

I would also ask Rory McIlroy. I met him with Mark by chance in Belfast last Christmas Eve - I went up to him and asked if we could have a photo and he couldn't have been nicer. It made Mark's Christmas!

Finally, someone I really look up to is Kate Middleton. She's an ordinary girl who found love and she's managed to fit in so well. She's become a true princess and I think she's the perfect example of everything that's good about the Royal family.

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