A former employment minister who described signing on the dole after losing his seat in the last Assembly elections as a “chastening experience” has now taken on a new role with a victims’ group.
Former Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy has been appointed as a welfare support officer by the Enniskillen-based Ely Centre, where his new job will be to help Troubles victims ensure they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.
A former minister of regional development at Stormont who had also held the post of employment and learning minister, Mr Kennedy said he is very much looking forward to his new role away from politics.
“It’s a job as an outreach worker, a welfare benefits officer, in the south Armagh and county Monaghan areas,” he told the News Letter.
“I’m looking forward enormously to the opportunity and the challenge that it presents. I’m pleased, obviously, to be working in the victims’ and survivors’ sector.
“It is a huge opportunity but there is also a huge need to support families and individuals from a security force background, from a military service background, and innocent civilians through the Troubles.”
During his career as an MLA, Mr Kennedy had campaigned on behalf of Troubles victims but he stressed that his new role was not political.
“Those are issues that I would have campaigned on, yes, but this is a non-political role. It is a matter of providing services and support to families and individuals.”
Reflecting on his experience of signing up for unemployment benefits for the first time in his life after losing his Newry and Armagh seat in the Assembly elections of June last year, Mr Kennedy said: “It was the first time in my life doing that and, in many ways, it was a chastening experience.
“But that’s not an uncommon experience for a great many people.”
He added: “That’s life, but I’m opening a new chapter with this new post and I look forward to making a contribution.”
The Ely Centre is pleased to have appointed the former Stormont minister.
Lee McDowell, from the centre, said: “The Ely Centre are delighted to have appointed such an experienced and local individual to lead the development of this new outreach project.
“To have such dedicated and proven persons leading the development of this project is an immensely positive step for the organisation and ultimately for those who will benefit from the support provided.”
The new welfare project provides complementary support to existing victims’ charities operating in the Markethill area, Co Armagh.