Belfast Telegraph

Stark example of life among unemployed

Editor's Viewpoint

Many people may be surprised that the former Stormont Minister and Deputy Speaker Danny Kennedy has been signing on the dole.

They might assume that a long political career and a minister's salary, plus compensation for loss of office, would provide a financial cushion for harder times.

The reality is, however, that Mr Kennedy, aged 58, is now looking for a job for the first time in nearly 40 years, having previously been employed before he entered politics.

Danny Kennedy was a well-respected politician, but he will know the old maxim that all political careers end in failure.

However, this will not lessen the blow of finding himself out of a job which in many ways defined him.

Mr Kennedy has acquired several important skills as a frontline politician, in legal and social matters as well as considerable people skills. Most people would believe that such skills are transferable in the job market, but so far Danny has been unsuccessful in finding employment.

He stresses that this is not about money, but about finding a job where he can still make a contribution to society. This is a key issue for many others who find themselves out of work, and cannot find a way back to employment.

Our local politicians are often criticised deservedly, but many, like Danny Kennedy, have stepped forward to enter politics when other people declined to do so because of security risks.

Currently there are calls for cuts in the pay for MLAs, particularly when the Assembly has been empty for so long.

Such calls are understandable, but they must be balanced with the reality that many MLAs work hard and do want to play a constructive role in public life. Some of these people have moved from other important jobs in the law, the media, education and business life to do so.

Many believe that Northern Ireland badly needs 'better' political representation, but there is little encouragement for people to leave good jobs to make a career in politics, with the prospect of pay cuts, and suddenly being out of a job.

Being unemployed can also be a considerable psychological blow, which in turn can lead to a lack of self-esteem.

By admitting that he is on the dole, Danny Kennedy will have gained respect for his frankness, and his willingness to speak about his predicament will help others in the same position.

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