Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland politicians share hopes and dreams for 2020

Andrew Muir
Andrew Muir
Carla Lockhart and son Charlie
Newlywed Claire Sugden with husband Andrew
Dolores Kelly
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Enjoying friends and family, settling into life as a working mum, turning an old house into a family home and attempting to run a marathon in under three hours... these are the ambitions of some of our politicians away from public life in 2020.

While politics is never far from their minds, it's sometimes hard to remember our representatives are trying to balance serving their electorate alongside a life away from their media profiles.

North Antrim MLA Claire Sugden said she'll find it hard to top 2019, having enjoyed a very special day in her life last summer - her wedding day.

"I know everyone said it was a formality we'd get married as Andy and I have been together for so long, but it was still a big event in my life," she said.

"I've now reached a stage where I'm very content and I have no wedding to plan for in 2020 so it's a relief that the pressure is off a little.

"Now the focus will be on our home. We live in a very old house and that's what the attention will be on in 2020: turning that into a lovely family home."

With no impending family to speak of just yet, the independent MLA, a former Justice Minister, is also hoping for a return to Stormont in the near future.

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"Northern Ireland needs to get Stormont back, but not just that; Northern Ireland needs good, sustainable governance," she said.

For Carla Lockhart, 2019 was a year of major change both professionally and personally - she became a new mum and has now embarked on a new career as MP for Upper Bann.

After welcoming her new baby boy seven months ago, 2020 will see Ms Lockhart face a new set of challenges, with striking a balance between her family and working life a priority.

"I want to see more investment in our health service, there needs to be more awareness and more support around suicide, and school principals need to have an adequate budget," she said.

"On a personal level, spending as much time with my seven-month-old son Charlie and striking the perfect work-life balance to enjoy family life is something I hope to achieve."

Having served as a councillor in Ards and North Down, Andrew Muir has just been catapulted into the Assembly by the Alliance Party and admits it's going to be a year of adjustments.

"It's a new job for me now I've become an MLA so things are going to be very different," he said.

"I'd spent a lot of time juggling my job and council duties, but now there's a 100% focus on one thing professionally and that's my future work as an MLA."

Another challenge Andrew has set for himself in his personal life is completing a marathon in less than three hours.

"A sub-three-hour marathon would be a great achievement for me in 2020," the Bangor man said.

"I'm doing the Dublin and Belfast Marathons and if I could manage to achieve that time in either of those, that would be my dream for the year.

"But I'm an MLA now and I really want to get started work," he said. "Hopefully, come January 13, we'll be in a position to do that. That, coupled with a great time in a marathon, would make my 2020."

After losing her seat for 10 months in 2016, Upper Bann SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly rediscovered other important things in life.

Now back in the political arena, albeit in an unfulfilled role at Stormont, she's hoping 2020 will bring her a taste of the outdoor life.

"I'd like to try to start focusing on the simpler things in life in 2020," she said.

"We can all get nostalgic and be thankful for what we have. I've learned what I have, but now I want to make the time to enjoy it all. That means trying to get out more on a social level, spending more time with family and friends who matter to me.

"I know, having lost my seat for a 10-month spell before, that there are more important things in life.

"There's a real need for us all to start enjoying family and friends while we have them and spend time soaking up the wonderful nature we have around us, and being kinder to each other is something we should all aspire to.

"But it's always hard to divorce yourself from your political role. I'd love to be in the position where I could do the job I was elected to do."

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