Making a pint | 

Politician says ‘I’m proud to pull pints’ as she returns to bar job after losing seat in election

I’m extremely proud to be back behind the bar because I think this is a job which deserves so much more respect.”

Rachel Woods behind the bar with colleagues

Rachel Woods speaking to a gathered crowd of climate activists at Stormont's Parliament Buildings. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire...A

Steven MooreSunday World

A former MLA who lost her Stormont seat in May’s election says she’s been trolled for swapping parliament for pulling pints to pay the bills.

But a defiant Rachel Woods says she’s “extremely proud” of her job as a chef and waitress and has urged the public to treat hospitality staff with more respect with Christmas just around the corner.

In May the 33-year-old lost her North Down Assembly seat – something she says “personally devastated” her.

But in September she was co-opted back onto North Down and Ards Borough Council representing Holywood and Clandeboye.

Recently she revealed on Twitter she had been attacked by bullies for going back to her old job at the famous Dirty Duck Alehouse and restaurant in Holywood.

She posted: “Tonight I was very weirdly slabbered at for working in a pub and kitchen after not being returned in #AE22. #Hospitality workers should never be looked down on, we do "proper" jobs & for so many people, their chosen career. I am proud to serve no matter where. #UppaWorkers.”

This week the hard-working councillor doubled down on her pride for what she does.

“I love this industry. I’m extremely proud to be back behind the bar because I think this is a job which deserves so much more respect,” she told the Sunday World just before starting her shift at the Dirty Duck.

“While many people dip in and out of the hospitality industry for many people this is their career and we don’t celebrate that enough.

“In France working in hospitality is seen as something special and to be proud of. Here we look down on hospitality staff as if it’s an inferior job but it’s the pubs and music scene that brings in so much tourism so we should cherish the workers much more.

“Working in the Dirty Duck isn’t that much different from working at Stormont because you are listening every day to people talking about their concerns and worries.

“I worked here for about seven years before I went to Stormont in 2019 and I missed the place and working here definitely helps you understand what people are really worried about and it taught me how to talk to people and build relationships.

Rachel Woods behind the bar with colleagues

“There are too many politicians who have no idea what it’s really like for ordinary people out there – working a couple of shifts pulling pints would certainly open their eyes!”

As well as puling pints and serving meals front-of-house Rachel is also works in the kitchen and is a pizza chef too.

“I’ll cook anything except for the steaks – I leave those to someone else,” she says. “I was working recently as a pizza chef in another restaurant too. I work seven days a week and always have.

“It’s been great coming back to the Dirty Duck, they are such a good team. It’s a community pub and the people working here deserve to be treated with respect by everyone this Christmas.

“So please be kind when you go out for Christmas this year. Be kind to your waiter or waitress. Think of the people literally knocking their pan in cleaning the pots and pans that made your work’s Christmas dinner. This is our workplace.

“I have two degrees and a Masters and I spent two years working at the Financial Times and absolutely hated it. I love the craic working in the kitchen or out front with the public.”

Despite only being in the Assembly for just over two years Rachel gained a reputation for being one of the hardest working MLA’s.

A private member’s bill she introduced brought into law 10 days of ‘safe leave’ from work for domestic abuse victims, making Northern Ireland the first part of the UK to provide this level of support.

And as well as campaigning on environmental issues she also helped introduce into law that women fighting court orders to get their kids could get legal aid.

Rachel Woods speaking to a gathered crowd of climate activists at Stormont's Parliament Buildings. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire...A

“I was so proud of the Domestic Abuse bill,” she says. “I remember being told I’d bankrupt the executive if women were to get legal aid for court orders for their kids. It didn’t. I was also told businesses couldn’t afford to pay ten days paid leave for domestic abuse victims. They could.

“In fact I was proud and loved every moment of my time at Stormont. It was an honour and privilege to represent the people of North Down.

“I was personally devastated when I wasn’t re-elected even though I knew it was a strong possibility. Just the way politics was going I knew it was going to be difficult but I always had hope and people still came out and voted. I lost, it was very hard, but that’s part of democracy.”

After tweeting about her online abuse she got support from other political representatives – including several from other parties.

The SDLP’s Matthew O’Toole said: “You achieved more in your time as a legislator than most MLAs achieve in their whole career. Dedicated, driven and collaborative. Haven't tried your pints yet, but I'm sure they're good too...”

While Pat Catney, also SDLP, said: “Rachel you where brilliant as a Legislator brilliant as a person who cares about our environment and brilliant as a young caring woman who took the time to talk me through and help with the Free Period products Bill and I’ve no doubt your brilliant Craic in the pub.”

Rachel says she won’t hesitate to stand again should there be another election, though she admits she’s glad Secretary-of-State Chris Heaton-Harris U-turned on his promise to call one just before Christmas.

“I’m not sure how I’d have fitted it in to be honest between working here in the run up to Christmas and working as a councillor.

“They say a councillor is part-time but it’s really more than that. And people have got so many issues at the moment. I don’t like using the term ‘cost-of-living’. It’s poverty, plain and simple and it’s not OK.

“People are talking to me about fuel poverty, about housing issues, food bank vouchers and worries about how much their mortgage is going to go up.

“These are desperate times and it’s a disgrace there’s no functioning Executive at Stormont. In my constituency in North Down we have two GP practices which are due to close at the end of January because there’s nobody wanting to take them on.

“That’s 14,000 people who, as it stands at the minute, won’t have access to a GP in two months and that’s not OK and there’s no Health Minister to lobby to sort the mess out and that’s really not OK.”

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