Gary Middleton is a DUP MLA for Foyle, having replaced Maurice Devenney, following his decision to step down in March 2015. The 25 year old, who is one of Stormont’s youngest MLAs, is a member of the Environment Committee.
Outline your background/career to date
My education began at Newbuildings primary school followed by Clondermott High School, subsequently Lisneal College after the amalgamation. My main interest was in computing so I furthered this by studying a National Diploma in IT practitioners at Limavady College. In 2008 I progressed to the University of Ulster to study a degree in computer science and carried out my placement at NYSE technologies in Belfast.
In 2009 I joined the DUP, carrying out the role of election agent in the 2010 Westminster elections for the Foyle constituency. In late 2010, at the age of 20, I was copied to replace William Hay, now Lord Hay on Derry City Council and was subsequently elected in the 2011 local government elections to represent the ‘rural’ ward in Londonderry.
I had the honour of serving as the Deputy Mayor of Londonderry for two consecutive terms from June 2013, the inaugural UK City of Culture year, to March 2015.
I stood for election in the 2014 council elections and was elected to represent the Faughan Ward on the new Derry City and Strabane District Council.
On 13th April 2015 I was enrolled at Stormont as the MLA for the Foyle constituency replacing Maurice Devenney.
What inspired you to get into politics?
I first got involved in politics through my friend and now colleague Maurice Devenney who encouraged me to join the Democratic Unionist Party. I have always had an interest in politics from a school age and had a strong interest in community and youth work. When I got to know the local elected representatives better, I was further encouraged to get involved in politics by the difference that they were able to make within our communities.
The ability to help people and to represent my community became my main desire to get involved in politics.
Who do you admire in politics or public life?
In politics, the late Rev Ian Paisley has been an inspiration in my life. He played a significant role in bringing about the peace we enjoy today in Northern Ireland. I admired his larger than life character and his passion for his beliefs. When I first met him a decade ago he presented me with one of his books which he signed and wrote a short message inside. He referred to a portion of scripture from Ephesians 6 v19-20. I followed his advice and continue to be inspired by his legacy.
What do you enjoy most about being an MLA and what do you find most challenging?
In my time as an MLA so far, the most enjoyable part of the role is helping constituents with their queries and getting resolutions to the issues they raise. It makes my role much easier and worthwhile.
The counter of that is of course when a result cannot be achieved. As politicians we often get criticised for lack of progress and achievements through the assembly. Whilst it can be frustrating at times, we must not forget or understate the huge steps which have been taken and how far we have come. It is also a challenge to get people reengaged with politics and encouraging people to use their vote, something I have continuously tried to work on since elected.
How do you find your role on the Environment Committee?
I was delighted to have been appointed to the environment committee at Stormont. My recent experience in local government has proven to be a valuable asset as we discuss issues such as the transfer of planning functions to local councils. I have been able to raise concerns associated with road safety and the measures being put in place to prevent further tragedies within the Foyle constituency and across Northern Ireland.
I have found the site visits particularly useful as I have been able to see first-hand some of the fantastic projects and facilities which are funded through the Department for the Environment.
What are your key priorities for Foyle?
My main priority is to ensure that the voices of my constituents in Foyle are heard in the Northern Ireland Assembly and that the North West is represented.
I will continue to encourage further job creation and investment within the constituency by working with my ministerial colleagues in the assembly and various other partners.
Building on the work of my predecessors through my constituency office and assisting all those who come through our door.
It’s a strong priority for me to assist in tackling the serious issue of suicide within the constituency along with the Health Minister and the relevant sectors.
I will continue to lobby for the refurbishment of the old Waterside Railway station, the expansion of Magee University and for further investment in our services.
What are your interests outside work?
I enjoy walking, travelling and playing guitar. My favourite thing to do, of course, is spend time with my beautiful wife Julie who I recently got married to.