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SDLP woman in election battle as her husband recovers from heart attack

By Stephanie Bell

A high-profile SDLP candidate in the Westminster election is having to cope with the double stress of fighting a campaign in a tough seat as her husband recovers from a heart attack.

SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly and her family were stunned when the Upper Bann MLA's husband Eamon was rushed to Craigavon Hospital on March 29 with pains in his chest.

Doctors confirmed he had suffered a heart attack and he underwent a procedure to have a stent fitted and was kept in hospital for three days.

Eamon (57) is now making a good recovery at home where he is fortunate to be surrounded by medical professionals in his family - Ms Kelly is an occupational therapist while her three sisters are nurses and two of their daughters are also medically trained.

The couple, who live in Ballinderry, have been married for 30 years and have four children Catriona (30), Fionnuala (28), Matthew (24) and Kathleen (21) .

Despite speculation that Eamon's illness had impacted on his wife's ability to continue fighting for the Westminster seat, Ms Kelly (55) has continued to be a visible presence on the campaign trail.

"Eamon is doing well," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He is taking things a lot easier - he has to now. He had two part-time jobs and was working far too hard. He started rehab this week and he is being well looked after.

"The week he had his heart attack I was speaking at a mental health fair and I've been busy ever since. I have a great support team around me in my constituency office, as well as volunteers, party activists and my own family.

"Eamon would have worked to put my posters up and my son took that over.

"I have been in a number of areas where people are giving the SDLP their support because they appreciate the hard work which not just I do but all of the local team."

In recent days, the politician has been campaigning on issues as diverse as cuts to Early Years funding to groups operating in Upper Bann, mental health, social care, domestic violence protection orders, the welfare bill, austerity cuts and female representation in the PSNI.


Dolores Kelly was educated at St Michael’s Grammar School Lurgan and the University of Ulster, where she qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1981.

Ms Kelly worked in Craigavon Area Hospital for six years and subsequently as a Day Care Manager. She was first elected to Craigavon Borough Council in 1993 and she became the first SDLP Mayor of Craigavon in 1999.

Ms Kelly was a member of the NI Policing Board from 2007 to 2009. First elected as an MLA in 2003, Dolores was re-elected in 2007 and 2011.

In the 2007-11 mandate, Dolores served time as both chair of the Environment Committee and chair of the Employment and Learning Committee.

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