This week’s Friday’s Child is Derry’s newest MLA Gerard Diver. Gerard has been an SDLP councillor since 2001 and Leader of the SDLP council group since 2011. He lives in the Chapel Road area of the Waterside with his wife Alice and they have four children, Ellen 26, John 24, Celie 21 and Eva 19. Mr Diver joins the Northern Ireland Assembly following the recent retirement of his party colleague, Pat Ramsey.
How would you describe yourself?
Happy, sociable, fond of music, eager to help.
Happiest childhood memory?
I loved to be taken on outings with my family on Sundays in the summer: there was usually a ‘tour of the three towns’ (as my late dad used to call it) namely Buncrana, Carndonagh and Moville.
What was your first job?
I had a summer job as a teenager picking corn on a farm in Dax, France, which meant sleeping in a potato field. Character-building stuff, but not particularly good for the back.
I tend to opt for non-fiction as I love history and political offerings (obviously), but also appreciate music biographies.
This varies from time to time, and is usually an old black and white one, (or as my youngest daughter says, ‘not another wee grey movie daddy!’). My top ten would have to include: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘The Apartment’, ‘12 Angry Men’, and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.
Favourite television programme?
I don’t get the time to watch much TV, but from what I’ve seen recently, I’d have to say ‘House of Cards’ (Kevin Spacey is a genius) and also ‘Breaking Bad’ (not for the faint hearted). Wife and son are avid followers of ‘The Walking Dead’ so I will admit to having also watched some of the zombie apocalypse.
‘Don’t take it like that’, which can take the sting out of things in any difficult situation (a phrase inherited from someone I worked with, now sadly passed on, but always remembered).
Favourite method of relaxation?
I would have to say reading and playing the guitar, which again I don’t get much time for these days.
Who would you most like to meet?
I would love to have met John Lennon. I think he might be hard work, but he would be very interesting! Of those still living, I would opt for Kevin Spacey (see answer above).
What makes you angry?
Hearing about cruelty to vulnerable people (e.g. children, older people and those with a disability) and to animals, really makes my blood boil.
What makes you happy?
Being with my wife Alice, and spending time with our four children, (all now grown up, sadly) namely, Ellen 26, John 24, Celie 21 and Eva 19. They were all home for Christmas, plus son-in-law, so the games were good craic! I went from Jenga novice to grand-master in the space of an evening, but also took some abuse in the process.
What has been the most embarrassing thing to happen to you?
One night a few years back I was convinced that an arctic blast was just about to descend upon our street (we live on a steep hill, in fairness) so just after midnight, I set about shovelling grit over much of the street (it’s a reasonably short street, I won’t lie). It didn’t snow. I don’t think there was even a frost. Neighbours bemused and amused. My kids won’t let me live it down.
What was the worst thing to happen to you in your life?
The passing of my dad a couple of years ago, after losing his struggle with dementia, as well as the death of my wife’s parents in quick succession more than ten years ago. The pipe bombing of our home a few months after being elected to council in 2001, was also really traumatic. Our children were quite young at the time, and it wasn’t easy to explain to them why or how someone could do such a thing.
What is your greatest fear?
That something bad might happen to my family.
What has been the high point of your life to date?
There have been quite a few; Getting married to Alice, the births of my children, the honour of being Mayor of Derry, and of course now being able to serve the people of the Foyle constituency in the Assembly, replacing Pat Ramsey MLA, who is of course a legend in these parts. This is closely followed by having played The Marquee Club in London in 1986 and reading the autographs of all the stars on the dressing room wall, Hendrix, Bowie, the Stones etc.
How would you like to be remembered?
Fondly, and not as the phantom Waterside street gritter. Seriously, as someone who tried to help others. Of all my work in the community and voluntary sector and the council, I’ve particularly enjoyed the last six years which I dedicated to training people for employment. Seeing someone’s life transformed by a job is amazing.
What is your most treasured possession?
My guitar: a Gretsch Country Gentleman. If only I could play it like Chet Atkins did!
If you could be granted one wish in life, what would you ask for?
That people around the world could live together in peace and with respect for each other, irrespective of difference.
If you could write your own epitaph what would it be?
‘An inoffensive big spud’ - suggested by wife!