McClarty family backing Claire to retain her seat

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The face of politics in East Londonderry changed following the last local government elections in 2011.

After being surprisingly deselected by the Ulster Unionists in 2010 the late David McClarty stood as an Independent the following year.

Claire Sugden was David McClarty's assistant for six years.

Claire Sugden was David McClarty's assistant for six years.

Followinghis passing in 2014 his campaign manager from the 2011 Stormont elections, Claire Sugden, took up David’s post after he had nominated her. Now Claire is hoping to follow in David’s footsteps again and succeed at the polls later this week.

She has proved to be a popular figure in East Londonderry earning a Best MLA in Northern Ireland nomination last year.

But for her the backing of the McClarty family and her predecessor is the most important thing, and that is there in abundance.

“The very fact that dad picked Claire to take over his seat says everything to us,” David’s son Colin told The Coleraine Times.

“He trusted her, he described her as very special, which I think she has gone on to prove. She didn’t need to with us, however there’s maybe other people in the constituency who maybe felt she had to prove it , and I think she has more than proved it.”

David’s wife Norma echoed her son’s sentiments.

“So many people have said to me if Claire was good enough for David she is good enough for me,” she said.

“It’s so refreshing to see independent candidates involved in government.

“David had to fight so hard for the seat and we’re so delighted Claire has decided to keep it as an independent seat.”

The family is delighted Claire has built on the great foundations laid by David.

“I think the greatest testament that can be paid to Claire is the face on the poster might be different, but the policies, the attitude, putting people first and all aspects of the community first too is still there as it was previously,” said Alan, David’s eldest son.

“We’re living in a time when education is being cut massively, we’re facing cuts in the health sector, and jobs are being lost all over the place.

“So when you have someone standing in our community saying they are going to put the people first, and it’s not about cultural identity, and it’s not about flags, it’s about what people want and need to survive. That means a lot to us.

“Dad did that previously when he was in a party, but when he made the seat an independent seat that is what it really stood for.

“I think the people of East Londonderry showed in the last election they were a wee bit more forward thinking, that they weren’t just going to stand under a traditional banner, and that they were going to vote for someone who was going to represent them as people, and I think they will again.”

The McClarty family has taken an active role in helping Claire in her first election as a candidate.

“It’s nice to be part of Claire’s campaign as she was with David’s, she supported him so much for those six years,” said Norma.

“I just knew we had to be part of her campaign, and I know that’s what David would have wanted.

“I would encourage everyone to go out and vote and vote for Claire. Look at what she has done so far and what she has achieved.”

“What I would say to the people of East Londonderry is to judge Claire by her merits. Look at what she has done in the short time she has been there,” said Alan.

“Dad was the man from Killowen who represented all of Coleraine, and indeed all of East Londonderry. Now Claire is the girl from Killowen who is doing all that.

“She has all the time for all the people here in this constituency.”

Claire studied politics at university, gaining a BA Hons and Masters, before being David’s assistant for six years.

“In the last two years I have never had anyone come into my office to talk about flags or parades, it’s been about issues which matter to them on the ground,” she told the Times.

“It’s my job to represent, it’s not my job to bring my own baggage to the table and to represent all the constituents of East Londonderry.

“That’s what every MLA should be doing.

“We have two roles - representation and scrutinising government.

“You have to know how to do the job. We get paid a decent salary, but it’s the tax payers who are paying for it and they have to make sure they get the right person for the job.

“In two years I think i have done more as an independent than the big political parties have done in ten years.

“If I can get another five years in I think you will see changes in this area.

“The support David’s family have given me is incredible.If there was one person who I wanted to see me get elected it was David.

“He gave me the seat as an independent , so it was always important that I retained it for this election.”