Sinn Fein’s Cathal O’hOisin may be a new face at Stormont, but he is certainly no newcomer when it comes to the world of politics.
Having been in elected politics since 2005, the Dungiven dad-of-one prides himself in having 30-plus years of political and community involvement.
“It was really only when I stood for Limavady Borough Council in 2005 that I became more in the public eye,” said the newly-elected MLA. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Council, in particular delivering the small things for local people. I found that most rewarding.”
Referring to when he was Mayor of Limavady Borough in 2009 as a “high” point, he said: “I used that year well and I think I broke boundaries and broke down walls. I said at the start I would go wherever I was asked and meet whoever wanted to meet me and I did and I think that manifested itself in the Westminster election last year with the increased vote.”
Leaving Council politics behnd, the assemblyman - who was elected on the sixth count having polled 4,681 votes (13.5%) - is relishing the challenge ahead in the next four years. He knows what the big issues are and is determined to play his role in making sure they are delivered.
“I was up at Stormont on Tuesday and I must admit, I had that ‘first day at school’ feeling. There isn’t much time to take everything in but I’ll just have to get on with it. There is an awful lot to take in a short time. It’s fundamentally different than Council, but when a challenge is laid down in front of me I won’t shirk from it. I have received an increased mandate from the people of East Derry and it is humbling and I hope I will fulfil that to the best of my ability.”
“The big issues are the Dungiven bypass, ensuring a radiotherapy unit is delivered at Altnagelvin Hospital and, at a local level, across the East Derry constituency, looking at areas of dereliction that need regenerated. For example, in Dungiven and in Ballykelly with the Shackleton site which I know the community is interested in. The Ballykelly Community Association is very keen to see a small part of the huge 700-acre site gifted for a community centre. That site can be used for community and regeneration purposes and hopefully not sold off to the highest bidder where the money may or may not be spent in East Derry.”
As he signed the Roll of Membership at the Assembly yesterday, MLA O’hOisin said he realised his new job would have an effect on his family life.
“I think it is going to have an effect, but it goes with the territory and I am delighted to have been elected. I have made sacrifices up to now and I know what is required. My wife, Eileen and son Paedar are very supportive,” he said, adding: “I just hope I live up to it.”