Belfast Telegraph

War widow's pledge for Army wives

Afghanistan war widow Brenda Hale has made a heartfelt pledge to fight for other Army wives after she was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Choking back tears after her emotional victory in Lagan Valley, the mother of two said her husband, Captain Mark Hale, would have been proud.

"He would be very proud of me, but not surprised," she said. "He always knew I had a voice, he had to listen to it."

Capt Hale, 42, from Bournemouth, Dorset, died in an explosion in Sangin, Helmand province, in August 2009, while helping his colleagues who were caught in a roadside blast. The battle group logistics officer, who looked after troops suffering post-traumatic stress, was serving with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, based at Ballykinlar in Co Down.

Ms Hale said he laid down his life for his friends and she was inspired by him to run for election after campaigning for better treatment of army widows.

The DUP secured four of the six seats in Lagan Valley, with poll topper Edwin Poots, Jonathan Craig and Paul Givan making up the four. Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea, who failed in a recent challenge for the leadership of the party, was also re-elected along with the Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn.

The DUP surge, plus boundary changes dramatically reducing the Catholic population, and a poor performance by Sinn Fein's young pretender Mary Kate Quinn, means there is no longer any nationalist representative for the constituency.

Reforming healthcare will be the key priority of the DUP's newest North Belfast MLA - Paula Bradley, a social worker at Antrim Area Hospital, said inequalities need to be tackled urgently after she took the last seat in an area experiencing some of the worst deprivation in Northern Ireland.

The 41-year-old mother of two from Carnmoney, north Belfast, was arm in arm with another new female DUP MLA, Pam Lewis, as she beamed at the result.

She took a seat ahead of the Ulster Unionist Party's Fred Cobain, chief party whip in the last Assembly and a stalwart for many years. Her election prompted the loudest roar on a day of cheer for the DUP, with Nelson McCausland and William Humphrey joining her at Stormont for North Belfast.

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