Public Affairs

Political Platform: Eóin Tennyson MLA

Eóin Tennyson is the Alliance Party’s finance spokesperson and in 2022 became the first ever Alliance MLA in Upper Bann.

Outline your background and career to date

I grew up in Maghery on the south shore of Lough Neagh. My dad worked as a bricklayer and my mum as a carer. I am the baby of the house and have two older sisters and an older brother. We were not a political family at all – so you can imagine their surprise when I told them I had joined Alliance.

At school, I always had an interest in business and went on to study accounting at Queen’s University Belfast and later at University College Dublin for my master’s. When I left university, I began training as a chartered accountant in Belfast. I became a councillor for the Alliance Party somewhat unexpectedly in 2019 and became the first Alliance MLA for Upper Bann in May 2022.

What inspired you to get into politics?

Politics first entered my purview in 2015 when the DUP vetoed a motion on marriage equality in the Assembly. I recall feeling a burning injustice that a mechanism designed to protect minority rights in the Good Friday Agreement had been turned on its head and abused.

The vote for Brexit in 2016, alongside the collapse of the Assembly in 2017, made me gravely concerned that the main parties were gambling with the progress we had achieved since 1998. After writing a few blog posts and letters to newspapers, I decided to step forward, join the Alliance Party, and make a contribution to building a truly shared and progressive society.

Who do you admire in politics or public life and who are your political role models?

It is hard to look beyond a politician like John Hume, who had a very clear vision and was a key architect of the peace which my generation is now lucky enough to enjoy.

In terms of contemporary role models, I really admire the steely determination of Naomi Long. She is a big part of the reason why I am now in active politics, and I have been genuinely inspired by her leadership on progressive causes and commitment to building a truly shared and vibrant community.

What drew you to the Alliance Party?

University was my first experience of being educated in an integrated environment. It struck me at that stage that whilst we had achieved relative peace, I had still grown up in a society that was deeply divided. Up to that point, my community background had largely dictated what street I lived on, where I went to school, who my friends were, and even which sports teams I could support.

It struck me as totally bizarre and unacceptable that we had not made the progress on shared housing and integrated education that was desired. I also have never subscribed to this idea that Northern Ireland is simply two communities that never meet in the middle. We are a diverse society and I believe that diversity should be celebrated.

“We are a diverse society and I believe that diversity should be celebrated.”

Eóin Tennyson MLA, Alliance Party

Ultimately, I wanted to join a party with a genuine commitment to working for everyone, to promoting equality and good relations, but also to reforming Stormont so that it is stable and inclusive of our entire community.

What are your key priorities for your constituency?

Like most areas, the state of our health service and the cost-of-living continue to weigh heavily on many of my constituents – and so those issues are undoubtedly my top priority.

With stop-start government over five of the past seven years, we now have the highest spend per head on healthcare in the UK and the worst outcomes. We desperately need progress on the delivery of the Bengoa review and wider healthcare transformation.

We have also seen a deterioration of pay and conditions and a lack of progress on childcare which is weighing heavily on many working families. There is much work to do, but it has been heartening that some progress on public sector pay and childcare has been made and that parties are making these issues a priority. I am also really proud to have played a small role alongside colleagues in negotiations with the UK Government to secure additional funding for pay and public service transformation.

Of course, if we are to make the progress that is needed, all of that must be underpinned by stable government. As such, my number one priority is securing reform of Stormont so that never again can it be collapsed by a single party.

What are your interests outside of work?

I am a music fan and big concert and festival-goer. In my school days, I was involved in musical theatre, and still enjoy going to support local productions in my spare time.

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