Belfast Telegraph

What happened next for Alex Attwood, Eamonn McCann, Sandra Overend and Oliver McMullan?

 

By Donna Deeney

They were once familiar faces on our TV screens and in our newspapers. But losing an election meant a sudden change for some well-known Northern Ireland politicians. A total of 19 MLAs were defeated in March. Some of them, such as SDLP stalwart Alex Attwood, had spent close to two decades at Stormont.

Others were only bedding down into their first term as an MLA after being elected the previous May.

As Danny Kennedy revealed he was now on the dole, the Belfast Telegraph caught up with a few of our now former MLAs to see what life is now like.

Alex Attwood had been MLA for West Belfast since the inception of the Assembly in 1998. But while he is away from the front line, politics still dominates his working day.

He says:

"The primary thing I am doing now is political consultancy internationally and from the back of the stands I continue to help the party, particularly in legacy matters. I will always be completely loyal to the SDLP and to Colum (Eastwood), Nicola (Mallon) and Claire (Hanna) in leadership, so whatever they wish me to do from back in the stands I will do for the party.

"At the same time I am working on conflict resolution outside of Europe. I wouldn't say my day is packed but it is getting more and more that way."

Philip Logan, who had been a DUP MLA for North Antrim, didn't get to stay beyond 10 months. He says:

"I was an operations manager for Albert Graham Ltd but left that job when I was elected to the Assembly in May 2016.

"I was very fortunate in that I was offered a job as a sales director with the same company the day after I lost my seat so it worked out very well for me, especially since my wife found out she was pregnant with our first child a week later.

"When I didn't get elected in March it was an extremely difficult time and I felt like I had lost someone because I'd put a lot of effort into my job as an MLA.

"I took the responsibility very seriously, I put a lot of money into opening a constituency office and employed two very good members of staff.

"I was determined to prove myself as a member of the Assembly, unfortunately I didn't get long enough to do that."

Eamonn McCann, a People Before Profit MLA for Foyle, had also been a member for 10 months, but was well-established as a campaigner and journalist. He says:

"I'd be telling a lie if I said that as soon as I lost my seat my phone started ringing with offers of journalistic work.

"In fact it rang so little I thought it might be broke but I am working on a number of journalistic projects at the moment.

"As far as a loss of salary goes it wasn't a big thing for me at all. I haven't really thought about it.

For the UUP's Sandra Overend, life after being an MLA for Mid-Ulster is very different. While still a party officer, she is getting used to work in the private sector. She says:

"I have been in full-time employment since June as a training and marketing manager for a construction company in Magherafelt, which is completely different from being an MLA.

"I have been in politics for 19 years so it is totally different being in the private sector and adjusting to a different way of life, it has been a big change.

"I was elected as a party officer at our AGM which has kept me very much involved with the party and that is where I want to be. Considering how the current situation at Stormont is, I don't miss being in the middle of that because it is so disappointing that Stormont isn't up and running and local government isn't delivering for the people who are seeing how much of a mess things are."

Oliver McMullan was the only sitting Sinn Fein MLA not returned to the Assembly. He had represented the people of East Antrim since 2011 but, at 65 years of age, he isn't ruling out making a return to Stormont. He says:

"I was the first Sinn Fein member elected in East Antrim and the party is rising there, so the work continues.

"It wasn't a big financial blow because I have another business interest that gives me an income.

"I am nearing the age of retirement but I'm still a full-time activist for the party."

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