I was born in 1962 and was brought up on, and continue to live on, the family farm near Glenoe, located between Larne and Carrickfergus.
I attended my local Glynn Primary School and then Larne Grammar School. I then continued my studies at Queen’s University Belfast and gained an Honours Degree in Engineering. After leaving University I worked within Production management in manufacturing companies in Larne, Carrickfergus and Belfast.
It was while at Queen’s that I first became involved in politics and joined the Young Unionists and served as secretary of the Ulster Young Unionist Council (UYUC). I also served as my local UUP branch and constituency secretary.
I was a member of the Young Farmers Club of Ulster and played rugby for Larne RFC 1st XV. I now enjoy watching sport, cycling and taking long country walks with my family and relaxing with the odd glass of red wine. I also assist my parents on their farm enterprise.
Sandra and I married in 1989 and we have three children. Our two sons are now working and our daughter is completing her university education.
I was first elected in 1998 as an Ulster Unionist Assembly Member for East Antrim. In June 2001, I was also elected to Carrickfergus Borough Council, and continued to serve as a local councillor for some 10 years. With the greater political stability, I have now concentrated solely on my role as an MLA.
In the NI Assembly, I serve on the Justice Committee as well as being my Party’s nominated member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Business Trust.
More recently, I served on the Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee at Stormont, for two years in addition to working on the Social Development Committee. I also served as Deputy Speaker from 2011-2016.
In my previous role as a member of the Regional Development Committe I highlighted to other members the congestion associated with the A2 bottleneck at Greenisland and the important A8 TENS route. This also enabled me to highlight the vital Larne Line TENS Rail route.
I am active on a number of All Party Assembly Groups: Chair of the All Party Assembly Group on the Community & Voluntary Sector; Member of the All Party Assembly Group for Children and Young People (chair 2007, 2008 + 2009); and Member of the All Party Construction Group.
Politically, I have concentrated largely on local constituency issues and ‘bread and butter issues’. I and my UUP colleagues helped to create a relatively stable Northern Ireland at peace with itself and its neighbours. Now we must concentrate on creating jobs in a sustainable economy with a responsive government for the benefit of all.
I believe that Northern Ireland’s place within the UK is best for all of us. The rights and well-being of everyone in NI can best be protected in a pluralist, tolerant United Kingdom in which everyone is respected.