Mason smiles way to success

Mason smiles way to success

11 May 2022

THE beaming smile on the face of Sinn Fein’s Cathy Mason said it all.

Polling an impressive 9,963 votes, the huge total not only propelled her into the Assembly, but it also ended her time on Newry, Mourne and Down Council where she is the current chairwoman.

The Loughinisland woman’s election means she will have to say farewell to the local authority which has been her home for the past four years to embark upon a challenging Stormont career, but it’s a challenge she cannot wait to embrace.

The loud cheers of her jubilant party supporters when the first preference votes were officially confirmed last Friday afternoon engulfed the huge Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast. Alongside her Sinn Fein colleague Sinead Ennis, the Republican pair polled a phenomenal 24,794 votes.

It was a performance repeated by the party across all 18 constituencies ensuring a Sinn Fein First Minister.

This fact was not lost on Mrs Mason, who was contesting her first Assembly election and while some in the SDLP had suggested that she was “not well known locally”, her performance saw that outrageous assertion blown out of the water.

She said the voters have spoken and the democratic outcome of this election must be respected by all parties and the new Executive needs to be formed immediately, calling for no more excuses or time wasting.

She continued: “People are clearly struggling with the cost of living crisis and are relying on us to get on with things and do our jobs that we have now been elected to do. Unless we form this Executive without delay, we cannot put £334m back into the pockets of people to help them through this cost of living crisis.

“Workers and families are facing real hardship; they cannot be held to ransom by any party refusing to go back into the Executive, just because they don’t like the outcome of the democratic process.

There is so much work to do and I am so keen to get out there and play my part for the people of South Down which includes prioritising the health service and investing and protecting acute services in the likes of the Downe Hospital, building our economy, creating new and better jobs and building more social and affordable housing.”

Mrs Mason said her party fought a really good campaign, describing the response on the doorstep as “excellent” and insisting that she will be a representative for everyone and work hard on their behalf.

“Sinead and I will be working on the ground across the constituency and we will work with the others who have been elected for the betterment of South Down. There are lots of issues out there, not least healthcare which is something that affects everyone of us and something we care deeply about.

Mrs Mason said increasing numbers of young people were voting for Sinn Fein and that others who may not have backed the party in the past did so at this election.

“It was clear that there was a real desire for change,” she continued. “People really wanted that and we were fortunate to have a lot of young people involved in our campaign. When others see young, fresh, energetic people who want to get in there and do the work it’s inspiring.

“The desire for change was evident on the doorstep as no one wants things to continue as they are and Sinead and I are determined to play our part in helping deliver that change,” she said.

Mrs Mason said it was no surprise that young people were at the heart of the party’s growth and that it was extremely fortunate to have so many activists in South Down.

“We also have a very strong Sinn Fein team on Newry, Mourne and Down Council which comprises a blend of youth and experience and obviously the party will have to appoint someone to replace me,” she said.

An advocate of mental health in particular, the new MLA intends to focus on this issue at Stormont.

“We are staring into a mental health crisis and this a priority of mine. But it doesn’t just affect South Down, it’s impact is felt right across the North. During my year as council chair I used every opportunity to raise awareness of this and it is something that I will continue to do. It is important there is a strategy, backed by finance, to deal with this issue which affects so many people,” she said.

 “Sinead and I are the MLAs for South Down and we will work for all. The hard work starts now.”