Elected in May 2022, Connie Egan is an MLA for North Down who cut her political teeth in campaigns for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and marriage equality before representing the Alliance Party at council level.
Outline your background/career to date
I grew up and continue to live in Bangor. After studying politics and philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast, I began working with the Alliance Party in its Stormont office, a job I really loved. I then went to work for Chris Lyttle when he was the Alliance MLA for East Belfast and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. I was then elected to Ards and North Down Borough Council in 2019 to represent Bangor West before being elected as an MLA in the 2022 Assembly Election.
Before all that, I worked for years in an off-licence in Bangor. That prepared me very well for my role as a councillor and then as an MLA. I think dealing directly with the public and doing customer service was a massive help. Being able to engage with the public is such an important aspect of being a politician.
What inspired you to get into politics?
When I was a teenager, I did not really know much about politics at all and my favourite subject at school was history. I studied politics at A-level because I was determined to know more about how the processes of policy and politics worked. I loved it and went on to study politics and philosophy at Queen’s. University helped me find out who I was and what I believed in.
Getting involved in party politics or the Alliance Party was not something I had considered much before leaving university, but activism really drew me into politics. I campaigned in the South for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. I was also a volunteer for Alliance for Choice.
Who do you admire in politics or public life/political role models?
Locally, Sylvia Herman, my former MP. I was inspired when she visited my school and told the whole class that any one of us here could do what she does. I remember thinking ‘there is no way, never in a million years could I do something like that,’ and yet, here I am as an elected MLA. That was an important moment in developing my desire to get into politics and I am grateful for her encouragement.
I also really admire Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister. In leading their countries, these women have both demonstrated leadership, courage, and are inspiring examples to me of how important it is to have more women involved in politics.
What drew you to the Alliance Party?
Being involved in campaigns around equal marriage, reproductive rights, and other progressive issues, I knew I shared the same values as the Alliance Party. It was the positive, progressive vision of a more peaceful, reconciled Northern Ireland, and the hard work the Alliance Party were doing to make that a reality, that drew me to the party.
I got involved in campaigning with the Alliance Party during the many elections held between from 2016 and 2019. Then in 2019, council elections were coming up and Alliance were actually looking for a second candidate in Bangor West, which is where I have lived all my life. Members of the North Down Alliance Association asked me to stand and were really encouraging. Without their support, I do not think I would have done it. I got stuck in with the councillor who was already elected in the area. We started campaigning on local issues, things that I knew were important to the people living there. Delightedly, I got elected and topped the poll.
What are your key priorities for your constituency?
Encouraging and amplifying the voices of underrepresented people, particularly women and young people, is really important to me. I think if we look at the people who are elected in and sit in councils, Stormont, and Westminster they do not accurately reflect the diversity of the society we live in. I believe that young people should be allowed to vote at 16 and should have a greater say in decision-making processes. I think that this generation is going to be most affected by the decisions that are being made today and they are going to have to live with the impact of these decisions. We have seen it with Brexit and we are seeing it now with climate change.
We must have their voices heard. I also think that the barriers for women entering politics need to be dealt with. Sexism, online abuse, lack of maternity leave; all of this puts women off getting involved and I really want to address those issues. More locally, I am passionate about seeing Bangor reach its potential. There are such exciting opportunities on the horizon with the development of Queen’s Parade and other major projects. The people of Bangor deserve to have a vibrant city centre and I am very keen to see progress on this in the years ahead. I am committed to being a positive, progressive voice for our increasingly diverse community and I see this as a really key part of my role as an MLA.
What are your interests outside work?
Living in North Down, I am very fortunate to live close to the coastal path and I really enjoy taking walks there. During the summer, I tried out and really enjoyed sea swimming, but I think I might take a break from that over the winter. I also play for Holywood Ladies FC when I get the time outside of politics.