Northern Ireland

Former Kitchen Bar owner seeks NI assembly seat

Interior of the old Kitchen Bar in Belfast
Image caption Pat Catney owned the Kitchen Bar in Belfast which was demolished in 2004 and then rebuilt

He is best known for serving pints as the former owner of the Kitchen Bar in Belfast, but now Pat Catney wants to serve constituents as an MLA for Lagan Valley.

Mr Catney has put his name forward for an SDLP selection convention which will decide who represents the party at the assembly elections in the constituency next May.

And the 55-year-old, who also ran the city's Liverpool Bar among others, believes his background in the licensing trade has given him the experience required for the "rough and tumble" of a life in politics.

"I think the business acumen would be the biggest thing I would bring to the table," he said.

"But running a bar is not all about alcohol, it is about the happy times, the sad times, all the emotions in life and trying to help people who are coming to you all the time - having people skills."

Mr Catney said he had been prompted to follow the political path after the death of former Lisburn councillor and one of the founders of the SDLP, Peter O'Hagan, who died in December 2009.

"I had a good friend Peter O'Hagan who was an extremely good politician in local circles and there has been a big void there," he said.

"I have been a life-long supporter of the SDLP, and certain individuals asked me to put my name forward."

Sinn Fein's Paul Butler is currently the only nationalist representative out of six MLAs in the Lagan Valley area.

Mr Catney said the recent boundary changes in Lagan Valley would make it "extremely difficult" for the SDLP to win a seat in the area, but that it was possible.

"In the bar it is is not about just working from nine to five and I am not afraid of hard work," he added.

"I would work for everyone."

One other candidate has put himself forward for the SDLP election convention in Lagan Valley, Lisburn councillor Brian Heading.

Clinton visit

Mr Catney said that if he was elected to the assembly, he would not be tempted to start serving in the members' bar, but that the odd "politically neutral" song might not be out of the question.

He said his motto for political life would be "expect the unexpected"

"I remember in 1995 when the US president Bill Clinton was in Belfast, he was meeting David Trimble and the word was that he was going to visit the Kitchen Bar," he added.

"The FBI came into the bar en masse and started searching the bar and the next thing the world's press started to assemble.

"We were doing a roaring trade and I got a traditional group down to entertain those in the bar.

"The next thing, this flashing search light came round the corner and all the press people ran out only to be met by one of Belfast's finest binmen instead of Bill Clinton.

"I later helped write a song 'The night we nearly said hello to Bill Clinton' and we sent it to him.

"The president then sent us back a signed photo which we hung in the bar."