The 51-year-old is one of Stormont’s newest MLAs having been co-opted by the SDLP. He lives in Londonderry with his wife Alice and they have four children, Ellen (26), John (24), Celie (21) and Eva (19).
When I was Mayor of Derry in 2008–2009 I took my father to the Somme to see the grave of his uncle who had been killed in 1916. He had never met him but his father, who had fought in both the First and Second World Wars, had talked about him. We visited the graveyard in Loos in north eastern France and it was a very moving moment. My father passed away a couple of years later but both he and all of my family enjoyed and remembered that trip.
I’m a bit musical, so I like to break out the guitar and have a bit of a play, that’s a great way for me to relax. The other thing is to catch up with my kids, no matter where they are.
It has to be My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone. That’s because on March 18, 1987, I went to the Crescent Bar in Belfast and danced with one of the barmaids to that song. We’ve been married now for 27 years. It’s a timeless bit of music.
My background has been in the voluntary sector, where I worked for the past 20 years. My favourite role was in the last six or seven years when I was training long-term unemployed people to help them get back to work. That has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.
To not take things to heart — particularly in politics, as you need to have a very thick skin. The other relates to where I live — which is at the top of a very steep street which can be very difficult to walk down when it’s icy — and that’s to put socks over your shoes so it’s easier to climb the hill.
My daughter and son-in-law bought us a Nespresso coffee machine last year. It’s been a very useful gift and has saved many a hurried morning because it’s so quick.
I look back at my kids now and think they are great achievements. We had four kids in seven years and everyone thought we were crazy. They’re now at the stage where there’s a good bit of banter with them and we have great craic. I can’t dismiss the politics, though. Getting to be mayor of my city and an MLA are things that my parents would never have thought anyone in their family could have achieved.
An electric blanket. I’ve been told it was a very good investment as it even has dual controls which allows you to set the temperature to one you are comfortable with. They’re the greatest thing ever and people who don’t have them really don’t understand how good they are.
It’s difficult to choose one. I love old movies so a couple are 12 Angry Men and I also love The Apartment with Jack Lemon. I’m a fan of the classics
I like factual books over fiction. I really enjoyed McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy as it’s very funny. I’m very interested in history and the Second World War so anything by Antony Beevor works very well for that