Nicola Brogan is the Sinn Féin MLA for West Tyrone, having been co-opted to the post to replace Catherine Kelly in late 2020. The former health care practice manager from the Lislap area of Omagh is a graduate of politics and criminology.
Outline your background /career to date
I was born and raised in a rural area a few miles outside of Omagh, known as Lislap. I attended the local St Eugene’s Primary School. I have very fond memories of my time there and I’m glad to say that despite numerous threats of closure over the years, (even whilst I was a pupil) the school still remains open today and is going from strength to strength.
I completed my GCSEs and A-levels at Loreto Grammar School in Omagh and then went on to Ulster University where I graduated with a degree in Politics in 2009.
In 2011, I went travelling and lived in Australia for two years. This was an amazing experience for me. I met and made very good friends with people from all over the world, and it opened my eyes to many different cultures, traditions and beliefs. I learned a lot about people, about how people’s backgrounds and lived experience can determine their opportunities in life, and their views and opinions.
I returned home to Tyrone in 2013 and continued my career in the healthcare sector.
In 2018, I became active within Sinn Féin. I joined the local branch of the party and participated in many local campaigns. I really love being involved in the local campaigns and enjoy the lively debate and discussions with voters on the doorsteps.
In November 2020, I was nominated by my local party to the role of MLA for West Tyrone, which has been a massive honour and privilege for me. It has been a fantastic opportunity and I am thrilled to represent West Tyrone.
What inspired you to get into politics?
I don’t recall any lightbulb moment or obvious decision to “get into politics”. I loved learning about history and politics in school and always had an interest in current affairs. Politics and current affairs were often a topic of discussion around the dinner table too.
I suppose what really grabbed my attention and made me care about politics was learning of the great injustices dealt to the Irish people at the hands of the British State, and then of the sacrifices made by the Republican’s throughout Irish history.
I have incredible respect for all of those men and women who sacrificed so much, to end discrimination, to end British rule in Ireland and to create a better society for all.
As we know, so many inequalities still exist in society today. I take inspiration from those before me to work hard and do what I can to bring about the necessary change, and be a voice for all of those that need support.
Who do you admire in politics or public life?
One of my role models within Sinn Féin is Pearse Doherty TD. He is a force to be reckoned with. He has his finger on the pulse of all things finance, and is not afraid to call out the wrong doings of the government in the south of Ireland.
I have heard him speak at a number of events and I am continually blown away by his passion and his ability to grab the attention of and engage his audience.
He will make a fine Finance Minister in the South one day soon.
What drew you to Sinn Féin?
I would say that Sinn Féin is a natural fit for me and my politics. Sinn Féin is the only party in Ireland with a clear vision for Irish unity and for an Ireland of equals. As a republican, those are my ultimate objectives.
I want to see an Ireland where everyone is respected and celebrated. It shouldn’t matter what race, religion, gender, or sexuality you are. Each of us should be afforded the opportunity to live a happy life, with the right to access basic needs, for example, healthcare, housing and education.
I want to see an Ireland that puts people and their needs first.
I think the strength of character and personality of leading Sinn Féin figures drew me to the party as well. I have so much respect for the party leaders who laid the path of peace for me, and future generations, despite the great personal losses they suffered.
What are your key priorities for your constituency?
It has been a very tough year/18 months for all of us, since Covid-19 reached our shores. I believe this is a time where we should all come together and offer each other support.
Many of our local businesses have really suffered as a consequence of the lockdowns throughout the pandemic, so it is a priority of mine, to be a voice for businesses in a rural constituency, as we emerge from the latest set of restrictions. My Sinn Féin colleague, Finance Minister, Conor Murphy MLA, has played a crucial role in the provision of support to many local businesses. I am keen to continue working alongside him and other minister’s to encourage economic recovery following the pandemic, playing particular attention to West Tyrone.
“I want to see an Ireland where everyone is respected and celebrated. It shouldn’t matter what race, religion, gender, or sexuality you are. Each of us should be afforded the opportunity to live a happy life, with the right to access basic needs, for example, healthcare, housing and education.”
At the minute, I am working alongside families in West Tyrone to bring forward change to improve support services available to children and adults with learning disabilities and additional needs in the area. As a member of the Assembly’s Education Committee, I have heard how reduced support for our young people with additional needs has a major impact on the lives of their entire family. The disparity around services available in certain areas is unfair and frustrating, so this is another priority for me.
I also wish to progress larger investment projects in West Tyrone, including the Strule Shared Educational Campus in Omagh, the A5 and the Regional Civil Service Hubs. These projects are critical in the economic development in the entire North West.
What are your interests outside work?
Outside of work, I attend Irish language classes with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council. I am enthusiastic about the Irish language and am encouraged to see its continuing growth throughout Ireland.
Fitness plays such an important role in managing my stress and mood, so I do try to keep fit and active. Over lockdown I have done a lot of walking and running to try to maintain fitness levels, but like many others, I have struggled to keep a steady routine. I look forward to getting back to my brilliant fitness class in Omagh, once the restrictions are eased.
I am blessed with a loving, supportive family and many wonderful friends. I can’t wait to spend more time with them all now that restrictions are easing. I also have 10 nieces and nephews under the age of eight, so you’ll often find me trying to earn the ‘best aunty’ badge.