Father and son team nominated for UUP

Father and son team nominated for UUP

10 April 2019

A FATHER and son have made history by standing for election to Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

Rowallane Ulster Unionist councillor Robert Burgess — who is out to defend his seat when voters go to the polls on May 2 — will be keeping a close eye on what is happening in Downpatrick where his youngest son, Alexander, is flying the party flag.

Having been involved politics for over two decades, Robert has been passing on some fatherly and indeed political advice to his Alexander (23), who is hoping to upset the odds and secure a seat.

The last UUP councillor in Downpatrick was Jack McIlheron and Alexander is hoping that he can make his own little bit of history by taking a seat for the party in the area for the first time since Newry, Mourne and Down Council was established in 2014.

A pastry chef by profession, Alexander is confident that he can stand the heat of an intense election battle, with 10 candidates chasing the five seats up for grabs in Downpatrick.

In 2014, UUP candidate Graeme Fury secured 373 votes which represented an almost 5.8 per cent share of the vote. Alexander is keen to more than better that performance and in addition to collecting a sizeable number of first preference votes, is confident he will pick up transfers from other moderate parties.

The Saintfield man is keen to see more young people getting involved in local politics and says that if elected, he wants to see his peers being given a greater say in the future of the district.

“Young people represent the future and it is important they have a say in how the district develops in the years ahead. It is important their views are at the core of the local authority’s next community plan,” he continued.

“Traditionally, my generation does not vote in large numbers but I would encourage them to do so to help shape the future of our district. As a young Ulster Unionist, I recognise the importance of young people having a say in how the area where they live develops.”

Mr Burgess said his key election priorities include job creation, highlighting the need to make use of available acres of space at the Down Business Park at the Belfast Road on the outskirts of Downpatrick.

“As the son of a farmer I fully recognise what a challenging occupation this is and how crucial it is for our economy. As a largely rural area, we need to work to help those in farming and rural communities,” he continued.

“St Patrick’s links with Downpatrick and the wider Lecale area need to be fully explored and I believe more can be done to tell the Patrician story to attract more visitors, boosting the local economy. With this in mind, formal planning approval for a new hotel at the Belfast Road in the town is welcome news.”

Mr Burgess is also keen to see the roads infrastructure in Downpatrick and in Lecale improved, with a particular focus on addressing town centre congestion. 

He said the congestion problem has never been fully addressed, highlighting the need for the Department for Infrastructure to do more.

“Health is clearly a priority for us all and we need to do all we can to secure existing services at the Downe Hospital and continue the campaign to secure more to meet the needs of the people in Downpatrick and Lecale and right across the district,” he continued. “We have already lost ENT day surgery to Lisburn’s Lagan Valley and I would campaign for this specialty to return.”

Mr Burgess added: “I hope that the electorate will place its faith in me and I appeal to young voters who have stayed at home during previous elections to come out and exercise their democratic right. 

“The Downpatrick electoral area has not had an Ulster Unionist representative for some time. I represent the new dynamic breed of Ulster Unionism alongside Alan Lewis, who is standing in Slieve Croob, and appeal people to voters support all our party candidates on May 2.”