One of Lagan Valley’s new MLAs, Ulster Unionist Robbie Butler, bade an emotional farewell to his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) this week as he left to represent his constituents at Stormont.
Mr Butler was Watch Commander at Cadogan Fire Station on the Lisburn Road and had served with the NIFRS for sixteen years.
However, after being elected to the Assembly earlier this month, he had to take the difficult decision to leave the career he loved.
“I absolutely loved the Fire Service,” said Mr Butler. “It was very emotional saying goodbye because we worked together so intimately.
“On my last shift the watch really went to great lengths to do personal things for me and I was crying when one of the men played the bagpipes for me.”
Mr Butler has also been stepped down from Lisburn City Council, where he represented Killultagh for two years. “I loved being in council and I particularly enjoyed being part of the Planning Committee, which was very challenging but also very rewarding.”
Despite his sadness at leaving these two roles behind, Mr Butler is looking forward to working hard for the people of Lagan Valley and has thanked everyone who voted for him in the recent election.
“We were reasonably confident that we could bring one seat,” he explained, “but we thought if we did the work there could be two seats for the UUP.
“Local party activists haven’t covered so much ground before and both Jenny and myself enjoyed really good levels of party support.”
Mr Butler has said that he is supportive of his party’s decision to set up an opposition at Stormont. “It was momentous being there, signing the roll and being part of the decision to go into opposition,” he said. “That was a special day.
“For me it signals that the Ulster Unionists are a Party of integrity. It will be difficult but we will still speak up and review the policies put forward.”
Mr Butler and his Party colleague Jenny Palmer, who secured a second seat for the Ulster Unionists in Lagan Valley, are actively looking for premises for at least one new office in the constituency and are looking forward to a busy term in office.