Ex-MPs set up new political lobbying firm

Ray Hayden, Alisdair McDonnell and Danny Kinahan have created a new public affairs firm

Two former MPs from both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland have teamed up to form a new lobbying firm.

Ex-SDLP leader Alisdair McDonnell and Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan, who both lost their seats at the last Westminster election, have come together to establish Upton Public Affairs.

They are joined in the venture by former Stormont special advisor and ex-journalist Ray Hayden.

The new company, which is registered in London but will also operate in Belfast and Dublin, is billed as offering a range of specialist services to business and industry.

Mr McDonnell and Mr Kinahan said that coming from both nationalist and unionist backgrounds means they are “capable of offering informed, accurate and reliable insights and perspectives”.

SDLP stalwart Mr McDonnell, who was ousted from his South Belfast seat by the DUP last June, said: “Danny and I have worked together on many projects when we were in Westminster, so when the opportunity arose to develop something unique in the public affairs space, we both saw the potential and went for it.”

Mr Kinahan said his previous working relationship with the former SDLP leader was “based on the bedrock of mutual trust and respect”.

The former South Antrim MP, who also lost his seat to the DUP, added: “We each have our own political views, but that’s the immense attraction with Upton PA where we can bring our respective strengths to bear for clients who need to get a strong message across to ministers and senior civil servants.”

Both politicians said the addition of Mr Hayden – an ex-journalist and one-time advisor to former economy minister Sir Reg Empey – brought “strong public relations and public affairs know-how” to Upton PA.

The pair said they have already signed up a number of clients since the firm was first established in October, adding that Upton PA has been “very well received by MPs, TDs, lords and senators in both London and Dublin”.

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