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From Dirty Dancing to posh cheese... politicians reveal their softer sides

By Suzanne Breen

Do our politicians think they're over-paid, what do they really make of Donald Trump, what is their favourite food, and do they know the price of milk? These were the quick-fire questions posed to seven MLAs seeking re-election in a series of fascinating video interviews by the Christian group, Evangelical Alliance.

Its director, Peter Lynas, interviewed Alliance leader Naomi Long; the SDLP's Nichola Mallon; TUV leader Jim Allister; the DUP's Paul Givan; Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir; Green Party leader Steven Agnew, and Ulster Unionist Robbie Butler.

People Before Profit declined to be interviewed.

All the interviewees gave a price for milk except Jim Allister, who revealed that his wife sometimes asked him to buy a carton.

Paul Givan heaped praise on President Trump while Robbie Butler branded him "mad as a hatter". While most politicians named pizza, lasagne or chips as their favourite food, Mairtin O Muilleoir opted for an artisan cheese. The questions were chosen by young people across Northern Ireland.

Mr Lynas said: "We are trying to engage young folk with the election so we looked to do something different.

"Some may question the softer approach with our politicians but young people can turn off the adversarial stuff, and there are revealing answers in the interviews."

Naomi Long, Alliance leader

Favourite food: Pizza.

Donald Trump in three words: Orange, sexist, bigoted.

Should 16 year olds be allowed to vote?: Absolutely

Something most people don’t know about you: In the Guides, I made Irish stew for Princess Anne.

Are MLAs paid too much?: Had I stayed as an engineer, I’d be earning more than I am as a politician. But, relative to what many people, earn, it’s a very good salary.

Last book you read: To Kill A Mockingbird (by Harper Lee).

What would you call your autobiography?: The Long Road.

Favourite Movie: Dirty Dancing or  Schindler’s List.

What’s the price of milk?: I haven’t drunk milk since primary school. The smell of warmed milk sitting in my classroom turned me. I won’t have milk in the house.

Paul Givan, Lagan Valley DUP candidate

Favourite food:  Lasagne, chicken and ham pie.

Something most people don’t know about you: I enjoy getting up to the north coast to jump into the sea and do a bit of bodyboarding.

Donald Trump in three words: Charismatic, opinionated, strong.

Are MLAs paid too much?: I’m not involved in politics for what I can get out of it — it’s what I can give to others.

Last book you read: The Book of Esther. It’s very interesting around Mordecai and all the political issues going on.

What would you call your autobiography?: Paul Givan — Why Did I Get into Politics? because there must be a greater purpose.

What’s the price of milk?: I can get two 2 litres of milk for £2. If I go for the individual 2 litres, it’s £1.29.

Steven Agnew, Green Party leader

Favourite Food: Anything vegetarian. I’m a big fan of greasy Chinese food.

Something most people don’t know about you: I’ve been in movies which a friend made: I Wanted To Talk To You Last Night and Endless Life. I’d a significant role in both.

Donald Trump in three words: Racist, misogynist, terrible.

Are MLAs paid too much?:  I oppose the pay rises we’ve seen. I’d happily see the MLA salary reduced if my support staff were better paid.

Last book you read: Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh.

What would you call your autobiography?: Steven Agnew — A Gentle Prod.

What’s the price of milk?: I drink soy milk which is between 60p and £1.15.

Jim Allister, TUV leader

Favourite food: It’s hard to go past a tender steak.

Something most people don’t know about you: I’m a bit of a besotted granda.

Should 16 year olds be allowed to vote?: I don’t think so. There needs to be a bit more general maturity. Not all 30 year olds are adequately mature, some might say!

What would you call your autobiography?: From Here to There and Back.

Are MLAs paid too much? There’s a deficit of talent in Stormont. Paying £49,000 a year hasn’t solved it but, if you paid less, the problem would get worse.

Last book you read: The Bad Boys of Brexit, and a book about the SAS.

What’s the price of milk?: It depends what you buy. Two litres of milk is ... oh ... my wife does occasionally say “Bring some milk”. You can get offers, two for whatever.

Nichola Mallon, SDLP candidate North Belfast

Favourite food: Seafood.

Donald Trump in three words: False.

Most pressing issue in Northern Ireland: Public confidence in politics is at an all-time low.

Are MLAs paid too much?: It depends. You have MLAs who work seven days a week, extremely long hours. They earn their salary. And then there are other people who always swing the lead.

Last book you read: The God of Small Things (by Arundhati Roy).

What would you call your autobiography?: I don’t think anybody would be interested in reading it.

Favourite movie: Big Fish.

What’s the price of milk?: Two 2-litres for £2 in my garage, full fat and semi-skimmed.

Robbie Butler, Lagan Valley Ulster Unionist candidate

Favourite food: Lasagne and chips.

Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?: Absolutely.

Something most people don’t know about you: I was a butcher from when I was 15 until I was 24.

Donald Trump in three words: Could I do it in four? Mad as a hatter.

Are MLAs paid too much?: I don’t think so. I left a job of a life-time as a fire officer and I was also a councillor. I took less money when I became an MLA.

Last book you read: Every day a friend of mine who is 72 and I read Word for Today and another devotional and we have a time of prayer.

Favourite movie: Forrest Gump.

What would you call your autobiography?: The Encourager.

What’s the price of milk?: You get two 2-litre bottles for £2.

Mairtin O Muilleoir, Sinn Fein’s South Belfast candidate

Favourite food: Some Kearney cheese.

Should 16 year olds be allowed to vote?: Why not?

Donald Trump in three words: A difficult passenger.

Most pressing issue for Northern Ireland: Love your neighbour.

Are MLAs paid too much?  Probably. MLAs should be cognisant of the huge pressures on working families.

Last book you read?:  I took to bed last night Zen and the Meaning of Zen. I didn’t open it, but there you go.

What would you call your autobiography? I did write a memoir in Irish about my time as the Lord Mayor and I called it A Prayer for Belfast.

Favourite movie: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

What’s the price of milk?: £1.20 for the blue one that I saw last night in the shop, but I’m open to correction.

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