The SDLP’s newest North Belfast recruit may be relatively inexperienced in the political arena for a 44-year-old but his pedigree suggests he won’t take long adapting to the demands of local politics.
Peter Devlin, who began working as a party representative for the area earlier this month, is the son of one of the party’s founding members, Paddy Devlin.
A chef by trade Peter hasn’t been active politically since his father’s last election campaign in 1985.
But now, after 26 years, the Oldpark man has returned to the fold as a community representative with ambitions to enter the race for a seat on Belfast City Council in the next elections.
Paddy Devlin, who died in 1999, was one of the founding members of the SDLP in 1970 and was a life-long trade unionist and health minister in the North’s power sharing executive in 1974.
Originally from West Belfast, the family moved to the Oldpark area in the 1980s.
Despite growing up in a politically active household on the Falls Road Peter says he wasn’t forced into politics.
“My father was a big influence on me and his influence in the SDLP when he founded it is still there today and I am very happy to be involved and associated with that,” he told the North Belfast News this week.
“Although he was an influence I didn’t see my father that much, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, he was always out working.
“I stayed out of politics for over 25 years after my father’s last election but I have found my own way back in to it, there was never any pressure from my family to take the political route,” he said.
Peter, who has worked as a chef in Australia, says he is keen to carry on his father’s socialist principles into his new position.
“Times have changed now, people are trying to work together which I am quite happy with,” he said.
“Coming from a socialist background I want to help people right across the community and when we talk about the community it’s not about the green and orange anymore, it’s a bigger community where the population is increasing with different nationalities coming in and I want to be there to help those people too.”
In terms of the party Peter says building on the ground is the best way to reverse their poor results in recent elections.
“At the minute we are trying to build the SDLP because they have been losing votes so we are trying to build from the ground up. We want to get around and see more people.
“In this day and age with the economy the way it is people are struggling and I want to be there to help as many people as I can right across the community.”
With Alasdair McDonnell installed as the party’s new leader Peter believes the SDLP can begin to turn around its share of the vote.
“Alasdair was with my father in the ‘70s and my father took Alasdair under his wing when he came into the party. I see that as an added bonus and it is a privilege to work with Alasdair McDonald. It is also a privilege to do voluntary work for the SDLP and if I get elected in the next Council election it’s another added bonus. If I get elected it would be a bonus if I don’t I will still be working for the SDLP. The founding principles of the SDLP which my father helped to develop still ring true today and I look forward to playing my part in putting them to work for the people of North Belfast.”