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DUP appoint Emma Pengelly to succeed Jimmy Spratt as South Belfast MLA

Emma Pengelly has been appointed to succeed Jimmy Spratt as MLA for South Belfast.

Jimmy Spratt announced he was to retire following a lengthy and very public battle with bowel cancer.

The 65-year-old said he could no longer dedicate himself to the role.

Emma Pengelly was a special adviser to First Minister Peter Robinson and has worked as a barrister.

Confirming her appointment on Monday, Peter Robinson described her as a "tremendous talent".

The DUP leader said: "I would like once again to pay tribute to Jimmy Spratt for his dedication and service both to the DUP and to the South Belfast constituency.

"I am delighted, however, that the constituency will have such a talented policy expert as Emma working on its behalf.

"She has worked very closely with many community and voluntary organisations over the last number of years, and in South Belfast she was instrumental in bringing forward the 'Urban Villages' programme which will help tackle dereliction within the Sandy Row/Donegall Pass area of the constituency.

"She will be a first-rate representative for South Belfast representing a new generation of talent within the DUP."

Emma Pengelly added: "It is an incredible privilege to have this opportunity to serve the people of South Belfast. I am determined to be a strong advocate for all the people of the constituency and help build on the foundation laid by Jimmy Spratt. I wish him well in his retirement.

"South Belfast is a diverse constituency with some challenges but many more opportunities.

"I look forward to working with all sections of the community, including the large employers within the education and health sectors and the voluntary sectors, to continue to build a vibrant and strong economy and to ensure South Belfast remains a great place to live, study, work and visit.”

Jimmy Spratt added his best wishes, he said: "I have been involved in public service for my entire career and today marks a very significant milestone. Whilst I am sad to be leaving the Assembly I know that the constituency will be represented by someone with talent, enthusiasm and a wealth of fresh ideas to build into the future.

"Emma is someone who will make a mark not just in South Belfast but across Northern Ireland. On victims, community infrastructure and many key areas of government she is an expert on not just the legislation and the detail but on the practical application. I wish her and the party all the very best for the future."

Ms Pengelly was being paid the top rate of £91,809 for her role as adviser to Mr Robinson.

The party said she advised on a range of issues including policy issues such as victims and survivors, good relations and social change along with legal and other advice.

Her husband is Richard Pengelly, who took over as permanent secretary of the Department of Regional Development (DRD) in 2012.

He was later appointed permanent secretary for the Health Department in July 2014.

In May Ms Pengelly, ahead of featuring at the TedxStormont at Stormont Castle, spoke about her time up on the Hill, and the concept of achieving an ideal and hypothetical world where we have the “happiest healthiest people” with full employment. 

She also talked about the disillusionment among the public in regards to our politicians.

“I have had the great privilege over the course of the last eight years to work with the Government of Northern Ireland," she said.

“In addition I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of politicians, ambassadors and thousands of people from civic society.

“Every one of those people, every party, member of society would all love to have that (perfect) record of achievement.

“We are all in this together and we have to find solutions together.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity for the first time, at the touch of button, we can access research all over the world... this is an incredible opportunity that wasn’t there five or 10 years ago...

“We need to do it together.”

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