Public Affairs

Stewart Dickson MLA

Stewart-Dickson Stewart Dickson is the Alliance Party’s East Antrim MLA and Chief Whip, and was elected to the Assembly last May. He served for 31 years on Carrickfergus Borough Council (1977-1981 and since 1985), representing Knockagh Monument, and is due to step down shortly.

A former senior employment relations officer with the Labour Relations Agency, he is the party’s spokesman on regional development and justice. As well as those committees, he sits on the Assembly and Executive Review Committee and Business Committee.

What started your involvement in politics?

From the early 1970s, I was an active trade unionist and was branch secretary of Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS) at the Ulster Polytechnic (now the University of Ulster at Jordanstown). This developed my interest in both local and national politics and my early involvement in peace and reconciliation work.

I joined the Alliance Party in 1976, through the influence of a neighbour and friend, Joan Tomlin, who was a founder member of the party. I was elected to Carrickfergus Borough Council in 1977 and, with the exception of a four-year gap, have served my constituents since then. It was also my great honour to be Mayor of Carrickfergus in 1991-1992. I have stood down from council in order to focus on the Assembly, and indeed, only remained on the council after I was elected to the Assembly, to facilitate the recruitment process of a new Chief Executive for Carrickfergus Borough Council; that process is now complete.

Who have been your main political influences?

My political influences are many and varied. Primarily Sir Oliver Napier and Bob Cooper, both Alliance founder members, and other Alliance Party members too numerous to mention, were great influences on my early involvement with the party. Other key influences were Joan Tomlin and Addie Morrow (also founder members). I have been a member of the party executive for over 20 years and am currently party Chief Whip, and therefore responsible for our MLAs and our 42 councillors.

What stands out about East Antrim?

I was brought up in Greenisland and for me East Antrim is simply my home. Its outstanding attributes are its close proximity to Belfast and Larne for employment and the rural and agricultural base it possesses. I enjoy my regular Assembly outreach work in Glenarm and Carnlough and am proud to be an MLA representing such a great portion of the amazing Antrim Coast.

Stewart-Dickson-train What are your main aims for this Assembly term?

My main aims for this Assembly term are to build on the success of the Alliance Party at the last elections and work for a truly shared society. I hope to further develop the outputs to date of the two Alliance Executive ministers who stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of delivery and in terms of tackling segregation.

I want to deliver for my constituents in East Antrim and am doing so by being readily accessible through my Carrickfergus and Larne constituency offices. I will continue to do all I can to help my constituency in the current economic recession, and will continue to work with Larne Enterprise Development Company (LEDCOM) and Carrick Enterprise Agency to help create jobs in my constituency.

In your view, what makes a good transport system?

The short answer is one that is ‘joined up’. I would like to see a more integrated bus, rail, park and ride service across Northern Ireland. I am a strong supporter of the Belfast rapid transit proposals; Belfast is moving in the right direction towards a more integrated system. There are serious challenges for me as a member of the Regional Development Committee to deliver effective and efficient public transport and infrastructure in rural and hard-to-get-to parts of East Antrim and across Northern Ireland as a whole.

How have you found the change from local government to the Assembly?

Local government provided me with an important learning base and the skills to deal with other political parties. It also gave me the ability and confidence to speak in public and challenge others’ views. I enjoy the cut and thrust of Assembly debates and also the opportunity to deliver as a legislator.

How do you relax outside work?

When I find the time to relax, I enjoy attending church activities (I am an elder in Greenisland Presbyterian Church) and spending time with my wife and family. I also enjoy going to the cinema and theatre and attending local community events in East Antrim.

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