Belfast Telegraph

How Northern Ireland MLAs are getting away from it all

From a cruise down the Rhine to a villa in the Costas, Suzanne Breen finds out where our politicians are headed

Jim Allister, TUV leader and North Antrim MLA, says:

My wife Ruth and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this year, so we're doing something special.

We're going on a cruise down the Rhine and into Switzerland.

I booked it because I think it's the least I can give Ruth for putting up with me for four decades!

The cruise ship stops at Strasbourg, so I'll revisit my old haunt and that will be interesting. We start off in Cologne, which is meant to be very beautiful. We'll spend a couple of days sightseeing by train in Switzerland. I've only ever been in and out of Swiss airports, so I'm looking forward to getting out and about and enjoying the scenery.

I like cruises because you go somewhere different every day. Ruth and I cruised Alaska for our 25th wedding anniversary and it was absolutely stunning.

They tell me the 40th is your ruby wedding anniversary but I'm not revealing to you what gift I've bought Ruth - it wouldn't be a surprise then!

Steven Agnew, Green Party leader and North Down MLA, says:

I'm going with my sister for a two-night stay in a cottage in south Co Louth.

We're both taking our kids to Tayto Park amusement park in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and we wanted somewhere no more than a half hour's drive away.

I've a six-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son and they've been to other amusement parks but never Tayto Park, so they're very excited. My sister's son is just two.

We booked Carroll Cottage through Airbnb, where there are lots of decent places for a very reasonable price.

I've canvassed for the Greens in the Dail election in Louth but apart from that I'm not acquainted with the area.

Self-catering suits us, as eating out in restaurants with three kids costs a lot of money - and they torture you!

Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist MLA for South Antrim, says:

Ruth, my daughter, is getting married in the beautiful 15th century Dundas Castle just outside Edinburgh later this month and that's where I'm spending my holidays.

I was fitted for my kilt recently and it's much more complicated than it looks, with buckles, belts and straps.

Ruth is marrying Matt Scott, an international rugby player from Dunfermline. They met in Thailand five years ago. I'll be doing my father-of-the-bride duties on the day but I'm leaving the rest of the production to other people.

I know Scotland well, as I spent the best part of 20 years based there as a submarine commander. Edinburgh is a beautiful city brimming with great people, culture, fine food and historical sites. It's the nearest place to Doagh in my affections! After the wedding, I'll visit the Scottish Parliament. It will be a welcome opportunity to see a devolved administration actually working.

Naomi Long, Alliance leader and East Belfast MLA, says:

My husband Michael and I have holidayed abroad in recent years, but this summer we're staying in Ireland and we're bringing our wee dog Daisy with us.

We took our last dog Molly to the south of England so it's Daisy's turn to get away now.

Michael's parents have a house in Malin, Co Donegal, and we're starting off there. I absolutely love Donegal. It's so peaceful and quiet, and more importantly, Daisy adores it too. Rain, hail or snow, she runs around on the beaches at Five Fingers Strand and Culdaff. She is so happy when she hits the sand.

From Malin we're heading down the west coast to Sligo and Galway and then on to Kinsale. We know Galway very well, because Michael used to work in Roscommon.

Holidaying in Ireland for me is all about long walks on the beach and finding somewhere nice for dinner. We're also having a short break in Dublin this weekend to see Michael Buble in Croke Park.

Claire Hanna, SDLP MLA for South Belfast, says:

Our entire family has booked three cottages in Bordeaux. The fact that it's a very popular wine producing region is just coincidental!

There's 19 of us going, including 10 children. We usually head to Galway but we decided we wanted a bit of sun this year.

It's all about relaxing, letting the kids run free and getting a good catch-up. We'll probably kill each other at some point, but we'll have a brilliant time as well.

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit MLA for West Belfast, says:

I'm taking a long weekend in Berlin this summer. I went inter-railing there as a student and it's just the best city.

The Holocaust Memorial is shocking and stark. There's a statue of Marx and Engels in the Mitte district which is pretty good.

Berlin has a relaxed vibe and a lot of attitude - it works for me. It also has a great mix of people, with big Turkish and Middle Eastern communities.

I plan to read a lot. I got a load of books for Christmas that I haven't started yet - and yes they are all history and politics books!

Pam Cameron, DUP MLA for South Antrim, says:

My husband Michael and I usually do a cheap and cheerful week in Rhodes by ourselves, but I've two sons getting married this year so we thought it would be nice to do something with our combined six children and their partners.

Twelve of us are going to a villa in Benajarafe, that's just outside Malaga, on the Costa del Sol.

Hiring a car would make it very expensive, so we picked a house that's just two minutes from the beach and on bus routes.

I love the beach and the pool - there's nothing like getting a few freckles! I'll read, relax, have a few drinks and the children will look after the barbecue.

I'll put my phone in a drawer and check it every few days.

Getting away from the internet will be wonderful.

We're only taking hand luggage so I won't be packing any books but I'll download something on my Kindle. I really enjoy Cecelia Ahern and Jojo Moyes novels.

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