Few people in the DUP – staunch supporters of the Dickson Plan for Education – are better placed to back the party’s campaign than brand new Craigavon councillor Jonathan Buckley.
For Mr Buckley is one of that rarest of students who has sampled every facet of the plan – primary school, junior high, Craigavon Senior High School (CSHS) and Lurgan College. “I attended both senior schools and thoroughly enjoyed both. I have personal experience that the system of education must remain.”
He moved from his home area, Richmount Primary, to Clounagh and was then streamed to CSHS where he studied electrical engineering for a year. But when he showed a real aptitude for politics, history and business studies, he moved to Lurgan College where he gained an A grade in all three at A-level. He is now a final year student at Queen’s University where he is chairman of QUB’s DUP branch, as well as being chairman of the party’s Young Democrats in Upper Bann.
He also works in his spare time as researcher for Upper Bann MLA Sydney Anderson, his political mentor, “who has taught me so much about politics and how to interact with people”. He replaced Mr Anderson when he vacated his council seat last month.
“So-called double jobbing will be outlawed when the new super councils enter the political arena in 2015,” said Mr Buckley (22). “DUP policy is to step down now and give people like myself a chance to establish themselves in time for next May’s elections.
“I will be applying for a nomination in the Portadown DEA and, of course, it’s up to the party whether or not they select me. This is my final year at Queen’s and I’m hoping for an opening in political research. But I’m concentrating wholly on my studies.”
His interests outside politics are rather eclectic. He is an exponent of the Lambeg Drum, and his teachers in that rather noisy pursuit are local legends Willie Neill and Roy Currie whose exploits with the cane and goatskin are known throughout the Lambeg fraternity.
He’s also a member of the three loyal institutions – the Orange Order, the Black Institution and the Apprentice Boys - and has a firm church background. He is a member at Cranagill Methodist, is associated with Bethany Free Presbyterian Church, and a former member of the Boys Brigade.
Jonathan is also a keen pigeon fancier, as befits the extended Buckley family in the wider Birches-Annaghmore-Scotch Street area. He and dad Glen (with the backing of mum Martha) are members of the Annaghmore HPS, and have many honours to their name from their loft of 200-or-so birds.