As she steps onto the bigger political stage as one of the North’s newest MLAs, former Mid Ulster Council chairperson Linda Dillon revealed the highlights of her eventful year as the district’s leading ambassador.
Just a few years ago, the Coalisland mother-of-one hadn’t even dreamt of having a career in politics, but since being catapulted into the chairperson role just months after first being elected as a councillor, Linda has found herself attending hundreds of events and engagements, including cultural and sporting festivals, major tourism events, as well as dealing with a bomb threat, and overseeing one of the biggest council shake-ups for generations.
Among her personal highlights were her efforts, with Deputy Chairperson Kim Ashton, at spearheading a women’s forum in the Mid Ulster area aimed at womens’ issues, and her attendance at the reconstruction of Thomas Clarke’s execution at the Hill of the O’Neill on its 100th anniversary.
“It’s been an exhausting but really interesting and invigorating year. I learned something from every event I attended in terms of what was working and what was not working, and the needs of local groups and organisations.
“I have learned more things and met more people than I would have in my entire life if I had not been given the role.
“I’ve enjoyed everything, even the most stressful moments, and I’ve been surprised by the skills and knowledge that I had but was not aware of.”
In her final speech at the Mid Ulster Council, she expressed her heartfelt gratitude to all the councillors, officers and the Chief Executive of Mid Ulster for their support.
“I tried to do my best and to be fair to everyone inside this chamber and outside it”, she said. “I value every single person here and it was an honour to serve you all.
“I was newly elected as a councillor and did not belong to any of the legacy councils when I was elected chairperson, and I think this was a blessing.
“Even though it’s been a very challenging year, I believe we achieved a lot, and that is down to the hard work of everyone here. For the main part, we were all respectful of each other, which is the important thing, even if we didn’t always agree. I hope I have served the constituents of all the councillors in Mid Ulster.”
She added that she hoped the eventful year will give her the unique tools necessary for success on a larger political stage and vowed to work tirelessly on behalf of the council and the local area.
“I got a good grounding in politics by working here, and I hope you will always be able to approach me. I will keep working to give the Mid Ulster council a good representation, and my door will always be open for everyone.”
Linda also praised the efforts of volunteers in the community, whose efforts underpinned the success of every single group and organisation in the Mid Ulster area.
She said that her main priority as an MLA will be to bring further economic development to Mid Ulster.
“I’ll still be focusing on this area, especially through the Department for Infrastructure. I hope that the success of the Desertcreat project will be the principal focus for the new department, and the state of local roads, including the dire need for a Cookstown bypass.”
“Keen on women supporting each other and of refreshing politics with their skills, she said she was delighted to have has as her deputy the DUP’s Kim Ashton.
“We got on great and I’d like to thank her for her help”, she said. “I’m delighted to have been supported by another capable woman.”