Former Employment Minister Danny Kennedy has spoken candidly of how he has had to sign on for jobseekers’ allowance after losing his Assembly seat earlier this year.
Mr Kennedy, an Ulster Unionist MLA since 1998, had been in employment for 36 years, since leaving school in 1978.
However, earlier this year, with an election reshuffle on the hill, the Bessbrook man lost his seat in a hotly-contested Newry and Armagh election campaign.
Sinn Fein’s Cathal Boylan, Megan Fearon and Conor Murphy all regained their seats as did DUP’s William Irwin and SDLP’s Justin McNulty.
The six previous seats were reduced to five.
Mr Kennedy, speaking to Q Radio this morning, said: “When you’re in politics you have to understand that it can be a bloodsport and you can never take for granted your position, nor should you.
“When political defeat comes, it’s jolt, there is no doubt about that.”
He added: “When you win you find out about other people, when you lose you find about yourself and I think that is very true.”
Mr Kennedy says he hasn’t made any firm decisions on whether or not he will run for election again but says he is struggling to find any form of paid employment.
“I am now in a position where I have to report, on a fortnightly basis, to the Newry Jobs and Benefits office for jobseekers.
“I can’t say that has been a chastening experience because there have been so many who have done the same, for far longer than I have been doing.
“I was blessed that I had continuous employment for 39 years, ever since I left school in 1978.
“When I first registered the staff were enormously helpful and courteous and do a tremendous job in very difficult, challenging circumstances.
“One or two of them reminded me that my previous visit to the jobs centre in Newry was as Minister of Employment and Learning, so you come back and you are in a different guise but that is life.
“It’s also politics and I’m not going to complain about that but I still feel I can still make a contribution to the community.”
He continued: “There haven’t been any offers of employment. Opportunities are not that plentiful at the moment.
“I didn’t waste my time at school but I didn’t apply myself either, so the qualifications are not that lengthy.
“Very often employers are looking for clear evidence the potential employee has applied themselves academically.
“It is going to be a challenge, I am 58, and I’m making no secret about that. It is difficult to re-invent yourself but we’ll have to see.
“I don’t want to be gloomy about this, this is a new chapter for me.”