After only a year in office, East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden was short listed for a ‘Best MLA’ award by the BBC’s The View programme.
Sugden who replaced David McClarty back in May 2014, told The Times this week that she was ‘humbled’ by the nomination, and looked back on what she described as a ‘good, but difficult’ first year at the top of politics in Northern Ireland.
The 28-year-old, who is the youngest female MLA at Stormont, was the only political representative in East Londonderry to be nominated.
“I was really pleased to be nominated,” told Claire. “ Although I didn’t win it, the UUP’s Mike Nesbitt took the honours, it is nice to be recognised,” she told The Times.
“My year as an MLA has been challenging. It has been a steep learning curve for me, but I cannot believe how quickly the year has passed.
“It’s only when you look back on the work that we have done, you realise how many people that we have helped,” admitted the Coleraine woman.
Sugden, a former pupil of Coleraine High School, says that she has asked the most questions in the assembly, more than any of the other five representatives for East Londonderry put together.
“People often say that Independents have no voice in the assembly, but I feel by asking questions and holding people to account, that I have been able to do that.
“It’s a difficult job, and you often doubt yourself, it’s often an impossible job, but on the other hand I have been given an opportunity to shape our future.”
Sugden put ‘outreach in the community’ as the most rewarding part of her work, she tells: “In my year in office I have met so many people, I have really enjoyed getting to know people of all ages and from all backgrounds.
“The sad thing I have found out is that people in this Constituency are really struggling, whether it be to feed their children or with benefit issues, often something very small can make a huge difference to people, and that’s what we are here for.”