Watch: Lord Hay of Ballyore pays tribute to rural heartland

Veteran Londonderry unionist, William Hay, is set to take his seat as Lord Hay of Ballyore-Londonderry in the House of Lords on Tuesday (January 13).

He told the Sentinel the formal title was a tribute to the electors of Newbuildings, who returned him as a local and regional representative with such regularity over the years.

The DUP man - who recently stepped down as Assembly Speaker - vowed that his career as a Westminster crossbencher will be spent as a working peer and that he will continue to be heavily involved in constituency work with the party in Londonderry.

Explaining the significance of the new title he said: “It’s going to be Lord Hay of Ballyore, which is a townland in Newbuildings.

“It’s been an area, especially the village of Newbuildings, that’s been very good to me over many, many elections.

“Certainly, for me, it’s me giving something back to the village, and recognising the support I’ve received over the years within that whole hinterland of Newbuildings. I’ll be known as Lord Hay of Ballyore-Londonderry.”

The Waterside man said the selection of Ballyore satisfied the strict protocols of the House of Lords and was also very much reflective of his own identity and the culture of the North West.

”The name needs a meaning to it, a history, a culture to it. Newbuildings was a Plantation village, it was the Goldmiths’ village, it was a village much connected with salmon fishing and very much connected with flax. There was a flax mill in the village.”

He added: “Hopefully, this is me giving something back to that particular area again. I think that’s important.”

The long-serving former MLA and Councillor, who recently suffered a serious health scare, acknowledged that the long and sometimes trying hours keeping order at Stormont for close to a decade had caught up with him to an extent.

“For the past seven years, especially as Speaker, it’s taken its toll on me. It’s taken its toll on my health.

“I was doing 12 or 13 hours a day and sometimes the job was very, very difficult, but I’m back again into reasonable health and I intend to look after myself,” he said.

Having fully recovered, he now intends rolling up the sleeves again, when he officially takes his seat on January 13.

He added: “It’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s another door opening for me...I see myself very much as a working peer, sitting on the crossbenches. I won’t be aligning myself with any political party.”

As to the old Chestnut of whether or not the upper house should be directly elected or not, the local DUP man said he believes some degree of reform is necessary.

“Yes, there needs to be change but I’m not too sure that any Government would want to take it on because the House of Lords has huge influence on many aspects of the working of Government, so I think there’s a reluctance from Government to look at real change in the House of Lords and I think that’s where the difficulty has been,” he said.

He concluded: “I didn’t think, when I started almost 40 years ago in politics, that some day I’d be sitting in the House of Lords but for me it has been a roller coaster journey...politics has been reasonably good to me. I’ve never lost an election, so I just genuinely want to give something back.

“Back to the people who put their trust in me for so many, many years.”