Lagan Valley’s surprise package, SDLP man Pat Catney, has described his election to the Northern Ireland Assembly as “unbelievable”.
The former publican took the fifth and final seat in the constituency late on Friday night after securing enough transfers to hold off the DUP’s Brenda Hale.
Mr Catney, who a leading bookmaker had as a 10/1 outsider to take a Stormont seat, attracted 3,795 first preferences - almost 900 more than in last year’s poll.
“I have received votes from right across the whole community and that’s what I want. I want to try to go out and represent everyone,” he said. “This is a good place and we deserve and need better, and I will play my active part and do whatever I can to facilitate that.”
Mr Catney, who now has to give up the council seat he’s held for the last six years, admits he will miss political life at Lagan Valley Island, and particularly the many friends he’s made.
“Effectively through no fault of my own I’ve got my P45 from the council,” he joked.
He says the party will now nominate someone who will carry on the work he has started while on the council.
Keen to see the Assembly up and running again as soon as possible, the father-of-four said he hopes he can be “a voice of reason” at Stormont.
“The people have spoken and have shown a willingness. There is quite a large section of us now who collectively want Northern Ireland to work,” he continued.
“The elections are over, we have made our choice, so let’s get together and let us be united behind where we want to be in Northern Ireland. We need to put those other issues away to the sideline and not waste our energy on them. Let’s spend the next 20 or 30 years getting this place to where we know it has the potential to be.”
Mr Catney thanked outgoing Lagan Valley MLAs Brenda Hale and Jenny Palmer for their hard work over the years and promised to “try to continue the work that they have been doing to try to build up our local community and economy.”