In the third of our series of interviews with Northern Ireland’s newly elected MPs, Adam Morton speaks to Newry and Armagh’s Mickey Brady MP, whose election in May 2015 saw Sinn Féin retain a seat they have held for 10 years.
How did your interest in politics begin?
I can probably trace it back to 1982 when I began working with community groups here in Newry. Through that I became heavily involved in community politics. I am an Irish Republican and one thing developed into another until in 2007 I was asked to stand as an MLA by Sinn Féin. I was more than delighted to accept that offer. It was a nice change at what felt like the right time. I think for everybody in life at some time or another a change is not a bad thing. My interest in politics was always there and obviously I have channelled it into a career which, as far as I’m concerned, is a vocation. I didn’t go into politics looking for a career it is something that has happened and I have, and continue to, thoroughly enjoy it.
Why did you decide to run as a candidate to become an MP?
I was an MLA for eight years and during that time Conor Murphy was the MP for this area. The decision was made that he should go back to the Assembly and I was more than happy to be asked to be his replacement. It made sense for him to go back into the Assembly and I was more than happy to accept the position.
For me personally it’s a little bit of history. I am the first MP for Newry and Armagh to actually come from Newry. Conor came from South Armagh and Seamus Mallon came from Markethill.
What do you hope to achieve for your constituents during this parliamentary term?
I really am aiming to achieve as much as possible for my constituents. I represent a constituency which has a huge agricultural base, so making sure that there is important rural development in this areas is important. In terms of the urban communities, my objectives are similar, I want to see an increase in development and employment opportunities in our towns and cities.
Coming from my background in community work I know that Newry had some of the highest unemployment in Western Europe. Currently we have low employment and a low wage economy, that is something that I would love to change and I want to improve. I want to improve the living standards and quality of life of those I represent. Elected representatives have to represent their whole constituency, not just those who voted for them and I will continue to do that.
One of the issues with our constituency is that we live in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and tourism in this region really needs to be developed in order to bring in more tourism and investment.
Describe your typical day at Westminster.
I go to Westminster twice a month and it is all about meeting with the parties over there. We are elected on an abstentionist mandate but it is important to be in Westminster to make ourselves and our viewpoints known.
We go over early in the morning and hold meetings with members of other parties such as the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives. We also interact with other northern MPs as well. Our role is mostly concerned with lobbying and putting across our point of view on what is happening and should be happening.
We are in for a big year in 2016 putting across what the rising was all about and how it was a catalyst for other communities in many ways. It is getting that message out about what our republicanism is all about and we want to do in terms of Ireland. Brexit is also a big issue now and the impact that will have on the six counties. Looking at 2007-15 there was something like £258 million poured into here from Europe and I think it is highly doubtful that the same amount of investment will come from Britain and we would be the only part of the UK with a land border with another part of Europe.
How would you describe your politics?
First and foremost I am a republican. The republican ideal is for a 32 county United Ireland. Partition has failed, the 26 county republic is failing as is the 6 counties. My ultimate goal is reunification but the important part of this is that it needs to be an inclusive republic.
On a personal level, I would describe myself as politician who speaks on behalf of everyone. I firmly believe that any society that doesn’t provide for its most vulnerable is failing. My father was a trade unionist and I have picked up that ethos. I believe that people should be focused not only on their quality of life but their community as well and I think we have a great community atmosphere in Newry that is growing all the time.
What motivates you?
Enjoying what I do. For anybody that is working, the most important thing I think is doing a job that you believe in and enjoy. I have the desire to be the best at what I do and to help any constituents in a positive way and not just be there as a token or to be seen to help or just seen at election time. I want people to know that I am available to them as and when they need me. My constituents are my priority and when I go to Westminster getting our anti-austerity message across is key.
How do you switch off?
I think you have to accept the job is 24/7 you have to be there as and when you are needed. But I must admit I read a lot and am interested in biographies and crime thrillers. In my younger days I would have played a lot of sport: squash, football and gaelic, I played them all. I also play a bit of music. I play the mandolin, I also have a banjo in my possession but I have never really got round to learning it, I always look at it and say today’s the day but that day is still coming. Aside from that I have a lovely wife and lovely grandchildren (a set of twins and three others). I tend to spend as much time as I can with my kids and grandchildren. Switching off is relaxing but if you enjoy what you are doing you never really have to switch off.