The most probing interviews: Justin McNulty, Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA on family, friends, losing his job and winning the All Ireland GAA championship.
Q. You’re 42 and married to Christina Balderrama Crespo (31) from La Paz, Bolivia, who works in banking. Was it love at first sight? Can we expect to hear the pitter patter of tiny feet soon?
A. I don’t believe in love at first sight. She’s a beautiful looking girl but what most attracts me to Christina is her strength of character, determination and honesty. We met in a bar in Dublin four years ago and we got married on September 24 last year. We spent 10 days in London and Bournemouth on honeymoon because that’s where she wanted to go. We’d like to have children.
Q. You were born in Cloghogue and grew up near Lislea, south Armagh, where you still live. Any childhood memories you’d care to share?
A. One snowy day, myself and my twin took off down the road in the snow wearing these cool little onesies. We were retrieved a mile away by a passer-by who identified us as the Crilly boys… we were two years old. Our mum and dad didn’t even know we were gone. Different times.
Q. You threw your hat into the political ring for Westminster in 2015; it didn’t work out, but you became an MLA in 2016. What made you go into politics?
A. It still hasn’t worked out (laughs). Politics was a backdrop of my life. All through my upbringing my mum and dad were very active. Dad was on the first civil rights committee in Newry. Former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon was a family friend and at election time mum canvassed and knocked doors for the party. I’ve always had huge admiration for Seamus and I feel very strongly about what the SDLP has achieved. I wanted to do my bit and I felt it was the right time.
Q. You’re an infant in political years. How do you feel about the current stalemate situation? Do you think being an MLA is easy money?
A. At least I got an opportunity to sign in up at the Assembly, do my maiden speech, make a few contributions to debates, submit assembly questions and get a feel for how the system works. Obviously we’re not legislating so I’d have no qualms with any decision to reduce our pay.
Q. Which politician from another party do you most admire?
A. Steve Aiken of the UUP.
Q. What did you make of Rule 21 (which meant that, up until 2001, the security forces were banned from being members of Gaelic clubs)? Does the GAA do enough for Protestants today?
A. It was the right time for Rule 21 to go and the GAA has been consistent in terms of trying to develop outreach programmes. The GAA in Ulster has a dedicated community development department that leads the way in community outreach. It’s one of the key players in a multi-sport partnership between the GAA, Irish FA and Ulster Rugby, bringing people together from all sections of the community. The partnership has recently received Peace Four funding from the European Parliament, which delivers a range of activities to diverse groups in the hope of improving community relationships, breaking down barriers and changing perceptions. I don’t know what more the GAA can do. There is the GAA PSNI team and the Tom Langan Cup – the biennial competition between the PSNI, Garda, London Met and the NYPD – which the GAA funds and supports. It’s not the GAA’s job to promote the police or to be a recruitment vehicle for them, but they do support the police and have done since 2001. It has been in the right place for the last 15-16 years so it cannot be held to have any fault as an organisation.
Q. What’s the most important piece of advice someone has ever given you?
A. Be yourself and do the right thing.
Q. Do you believe in God? Do you have a strong faith?