Dee Quigley says people are pleased that an “ordinary man” has been elected to represent them on the new Derry-Strabane ‘super’ council.
The father-of-two, who ran as an independent candidate in the recent local government elections, took one of the six seats in the city’s Ballyarnett ward, polling 1,037 first preference votes.
A “proud Galliagh man”, Dee - or to give him his more formal title, Dermot - says that, while he’s “over the moon” at his success, he’s still trying to come to terms with it.
“From talking to people out and about, they seem really pleased that an ‘ordinary man’ is going to represent them on the new Council,” he says. “In a way, it has given the area a lift.”
He adds: “People have put their confidence in me. People have asked me to be their voice. I intend to make that voice a loud one - be in no doubt about that.”
So, was he taken aback by his election success and, in particular, his impressive personal vote?
“Surprised would be the word I’d use. We initially missed about 200 votes when we were doing the tallying and, to be honest, we were really pleased with the 800 votes which, at that stage, we were led to believe I’d polled.
“I think the issues I campaigned on were important to the voter and something they wanted brought to the table.
“Detox, mental health, more and better access to facilities in our communities, more accountability and transparency in Council - these were all themes that, obviously, struck a chord with the electorate.”
Dee acknowledges that the tragic death of his nephew, Andrew, earlier this year and his subsequent spearheading of the campaign for a detox centre in Derry played a role in boosting his public profile.
“I have no doubt it did,” he says. “But, in saying that, the issue of detox and specialist services is not new to the people of Derry.
“The people of this city and beyond are fed up with help not being there for whoever needs it - young or old.
“Andrew [who took his own life] was a victim of a failed system on many levels. Society needs to change, society needs to look at how it treats its young people and take a long, hard look at the reasons why young people get caught up in things like drugs, alcohol etc.,”
Mr. Quigley believes politics can play a major role in the structures of ‘community’ by implementing policies that are “pro community” and accessible to the most vulnerable people in society.
Dee Quigley can trace his political upbringing back to his childhood in Galliagh.
“I was born and raised in Galliagh. I can recall my mum and dad taking me to our brand new Housing Executive house in 1976. In fact, my mum still recalls that hot summer and says we haven’t had one like it since!”
With two older brothers - Kieran and Gerald - and two sisters - Colette and Sharon - growing up in Galliagh in the 1970s and 1980s was an interesting time for the young Dee Quigley.
“I went to school in Galliagh; then I ventured over to St Brecan’s, Trench Road, where I met loads of new friends who I still chat to to this very day.
“I then studied at the University of Ulster (Magee) where I achieved a degree in Youth and Community Work. I’m currently doing my Masters in Restorative Practices, again at UU. At present, I’m employed as a community youth worker.”
“For most of my life I have been involved in community work - working within communities throughout Derry and further afield. I see my priorities as the needs of the people in the Ballyarnett ward - whatever they might be for that particular person, family, street or community.
“As a result of my work, I can see that we need more activities in our communities; we need a vibrant, active society.”
So, does Dee think his ‘independent’ tag will be a help or a hindrance on the new ‘super’ council which will officially be up-and-running next year?
“The independent ‘brand’ has grown throughout Ireland by about 30%. I don’t see why Derry would be any different. It was time for change and people seized it.
“People are fed up with big parties having a monopoly; the voter wanted a more community-minded individual on Council and that’s what happened in last week’s election.
“I feel the independent brand will continue to grow in the future and I look forward to seeing that.”
Dee Quigley says people in the Ballyarnett ward have many concerns.
“People are worried about the future. They’re worried about jobs - they don’t want to see our young people growing up and having to leave Derry. People don’t want to be on the ‘dole’. They want work and are willing to work - but, at the same time, they don’t want to be exploited.
“Education, health, benefits etc., - it’s the bread and butter issues that focus people’s minds.”
Dee Quigley says family plays an important role in his life.
“My family have always been at the centre of my life - and me in theirs. Everyone knows how close we all are. They are my shoulder to cry on, the eyes watching my back and the voice I listen to.
“Like many families, we’ve been through so much together. We don’t see ourselves as any different - we work hard, we believe in community and supporting it, we believe in not judging people, we believe in second chances and, most of all, we enjoy a good laugh, particularly at family gatherings - there are so many of us!”
Dee Quigley acknowledges that, with his election, there is now a sizeable weight of public expectation on his shoulders.
“When you have the backing of the people, it doesn’t seem so bad. People realise I’m an ordinary person; they don’t expect miracles and they just want their voices heard on the issues that matter to them.,
“I’d just ask people to give me time. I’m very grateful they trusted me with their vote and I won’t let them down.”