“I HAD given no thought to returning to politics,” admits Rosemary Barton who has been co-opted to Fermanagh & Omagh District Council. as a UUP Councillor.
Barton is referring to the immediate aftermath of May’s NI Assembly election last year when she lost her seat as an MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone.
A risk of fielding two UUP candidates proved to be just that and while Tom Elliott was elected on the UUP ticket, Barton – one of the incumbent MLAs – found herself edged out.
However, fast forward to today and Barton is back – returning to a previous political incarnation as a Councillor, replacing Bert Wilson who has retired.
Although back in May, Barton admits that following her Assembly poll defeat, a return to teaching was being considered.
She said: “Obviously losing my Assembly seat was a disappointment.
“But with the Party decision to run two candidates, it was something that I had given a little thought to, but had given no real consideration as to the direction of my future pathway.
“I had given no thought to returning to politics. The Council elections were too far off to even consider.”
Those very same Council elections are only five months away. While Barton realises that doesn’t give much time to make an impact, she’ll be doing all she can for residents of the county.
She added: “Being aware that the present Council mandate has a short time to run, I would hope to carry on the good work that my predecessor had been doing – particularly in Agriculture and the Environment.
“Working with the community regarding the numerous issues there are in relation to the maintenance of the roads infrastructure and broadband infrastructure. communicating, availability and resolving their daily issues, I believe is key in a Councillor’s work.”
She continued: “Some of the main issues no doubt will evolve around agriculture and the environment along with the difficulties that small businesses have at the moment, due to increased prices for energy and animal feeds.
“The biggest concern overall will be the problems in the Health Service, appointment waiting times, operation waiting times, difficulties in contacting Health Centres and the loss of services from local hospitals such as the SWAH.
“There are also concerns about the decrease in the level of maintenance of both rural roads and rivers.”
Despite losing her Assembly seat, Cllr Barton has been keeping a close eye on events in Stormont and, in particular, the current impasse revolving around the failure to establish a functioning Executive.
She said: “With Covid now on the wane, the public were expecting the return of normality for many services.
“But with the current impasse surrounding Stormont this return to pre-Covid days for many services is still an issue for many.
“The crisis in the Health Service presently is something that must be tackled through all parties working together in Stormont and not used as a political football.”
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