Public Affairs

Political Platform: Justin McNulty MLA

Three times elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, SDLP Newry and Armagh representative, former Armagh GAA star, and current County Laois football manager Justin McNulty MLA, talks to agendaNi about his political inspiration, his personal passions, and priorities for his constituency.

Outline your background/career to date

My wife is Cristina and, so far, we have one son, Setanta, who is two years old. I am from the townland of Aghmakane on the foothills of Slieve Gullion where I had a wonderful country farming upbringing with my two sisters and three brothers (I am a twin!). Some of my fondest early memories were on the farm taking in the hay, milking cows, calving, or the silage time.

I am so grateful to my wife, to my parents, Joe and Mary, who are both still healthy and well, together with my aunties, uncles, cousins, friends, teammates, coaches, neighbours, and community who have all been a huge influence on my life and have helped shape me into the man I am today.

Sport has been an important part in my life as I have a huge passion and have had wonderful experiences playing, coaching and being a fan of Gaelic games.

My broad experiences in sport, working on the farm, working as a civil engineer, project manager, performance coach, and financial consultant have given me a good grounding for my position as a politician, together with a huge appreciation of the daily grind and the good fortune I have had in having the opportunities and the good health to be able to fulfil those roles.

What inspired you to get into politics?

Politics has been a backdrop of my life. All through my childhood and youth, my mum and dad were very active members of the SDLP. Dad was on the first civil rights committee in Newry. Former SDLP deputy leader Séamus Mallon was a family friend and at every election time mum canvassed and knocked doors for our party. I have always had huge admiration for Séamus Mallon, and I feel very strongly and proud about what the SDLP has achieved and are determined to achieve.

The SDLP’s values are my values and my family’s values. We have always believed in the transformative power of our people spilling their sweat, rather than their blood, in pursuit of better, more fulfilled lives, a healthier population and a shared homeplace in a new Ireland where everyone can meet their full potential. I love helping people and wanted to do my bit and I felt it was the right time.

Before entering politics, McNulty was a Gaelic football star, winning the All-Ireland Championship with Armagh in 2002.

Who are your political role models?

Séamus Mallon, John Hume, John Fee, Geraldine Donnelly, Rory O’Hanlon, Dominic Bradley, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Daniel O’Connell.

What are your key priorities for Newry and Armagh?

There are several. The first is securing Daisy Hill Hospital’s future in the short term and working to expand the hospital to serve its natural hinterland on a cross-border basis with the hospital serving as a world class centre of excellence in at least one medical specialism.
I want to help to address the challenges faced by people, families, businesses, and communities as a consequence of a spiralling cost of living and doing business, political statement and brutal cuts to vital public services including in education, health, and social security.

We want a world class city park in Newry that this region and Ireland can be proud of, and support and enhance the tourism reach and appeal of south Armagh, an area with a rich and diverse mythological, historical, musical, and cultural heritage. Whilst us locals may not fully appreciate it; our landscape is spectacularly beautiful and should be celebrated and protected.

I want to see completion of important infrastructural projects including the Armagh East and West Link Roads; the Southern Relief Road, Newry; the Armagh-Portadown Rail Link; and securing an hourly Belfast-Dublin Enterprise Service that gets people in in time for work.

We want to build a culture that recognises the value of exercise and sport, and that encourages and celebrates lifetime active participation for people of every ability.

What are your interests outside work?

I am passionate about sport, and I guess outside of family and friends, the GAA most defines who I am. I love our south Armagh countryside and could spend forever wandering on Slieve Gullion or our country roads and fields. Playing and swimming at the beach with my son is a wonderful escape and we are blessed with close access to so many wonderful beaches, however, it is hard to beat the Atlantic waves.

I love travelling around rural Ireland being immersed in our music, landscape, culture, and heritage. I particularly like spending time in my wife’s country of Bolivia (I have been there twice). Working out, reading, and learning are nourishment for my soul as well.

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