Elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2017, the DUP’s Jonathan Buckley took his place as the youngest unionist MLA at Stormont. As a “unionist in every sense of the word”, the Upper Bann representative talks about his background, political inspirations and priorities for his home constituency.
Outline your background/career to date
I grew up in rural Portadown, the middle child of five. I attended Richmount Primary School, Clounagh Junior High School, Craigavon Senior High School, Lurgan College then furthered my studies at Queen’s University Belfast, gaining a Bachelor of Arts in History and Politics. From an early age I was interested with local politics. This interest led me to join the Democratic Unionist Party. I began my career in politics as an Assembly researcher and advisor to the former Upper Bann MLA Sydney Anderson from 2012 to 2017. Shortly following this was my election to the former Craigavon Borough Council in 2013, now Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council where I served until 2017. I currently serve as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, representing my home constituency of Upper Bann.
What inspired you to get into politics?
Politics and civic engagement have always been important to me, hence my young entrance into elected politics. I am proud to be from Northern Ireland and want to play my part in championing its incredible people, places and economy.
Who do you admire in politics or public life?
There are many within my party who I admire and whom without, I simply would not have been given the opportunity to enter frontline politics. Sydney Anderson was someone who gave me a chance to enter the political sphere, so in that sense he does stand out as someone who I hold in very high esteem. He was a diligent elected representative who served his constituents well.
On a national stage, Margaret Thatcher is a politician who I have a great regard for. As our first female PM, she faced untold barriers and made her way to the top based purely on her talent and ability. She was a lady with a vision for our country and a politician that changed the face of Britain. Seldom do we see such change. She was a leader that got things done. Too often in politics we have politicians with big dreams and ideas though seldom have the courage or political will to implement them.
What drew you to the DUP?
I am a unionist in every sense of the word, I passionately believe in its social and economic benefits. Northern Ireland is a vital part of the UK success story, the fifth biggest economy in the world with significant influence globally. The DUP represent those views, committed to building a better Northern Ireland within a vibrant United Kingdom championing our region which is punching well above its weight. I am a social and fiscal conservative and feel that the DUP best represents me and many within my community.
What are your key priorities for your constituency?
In my role as an MLA I am very much focused on the wider context of Northern Ireland. We are going through a period of unprecedented change, I want to play my part in ensuring Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom deliver on the Brexit referendum and secure a deal which is prosperous for all. Great change brings challenges but also great opportunity, I hope we can grasp the opportunity and take our country to new heights.
I am a committed devolutionist, I passionately believe local, accountable government is in the best interest of all the people of Northern Ireland, regardless of political orientation. I, alongside my party, continue to work to see the restoration of a Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to build on the positive work and progress Northern Ireland has seen in the last 10 years.
Locally in Upper Bann, I want to champion further economic investment to the area, creating more jobs and choice for constituents. This is something I am truly passionate about. If we create the right conditions and build the right relationships, I have no doubt Upper Bann will continue to flourish.
I want to provide a proactive service for my constituents in Upper Bann offering genuine advice to help them live more comfortably and contently.
What are your interests outside work?
I have many outside interests. Sport, country sports, walking, reading and pigeon racing – something which I have been involved in alongside my family for all my life.