First-time councillors on being the new kids on the political block

Counting Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption More than 460 councillors, many of them new to political life, were returned in May's election

If, as Harold Wilson is said to have said, a week is a long time in politics, what's the first month like for a first-time newly-elected politician?

Voters in Northern Ireland went to the polls in early May to elect 462 local councillors.

Results saw a plethora of first-time fresh faces ushered in.

BBC News NI has caught up with some of the new kids on the political block.

"I was fine until I was just about to walk through the door," Belfast Green Party councillor Áine Groogan said.

"Then you remember that you have been elected to be there, that you have the confidence of voters, and it passed within a couple of seconds."

Áine topped the poll in the Botanic area of Belfast and is now one of four Green councillors in the city.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Áine Groogan celebrates with Green Party leader Clare Bailey in Belfast

It would be very easy for a new councillor "to be overwhelmed by the workload," she said.

As a constituency office worker for the party's leader Clare Bailey, she had some insight into the demands of political life.

Now she juggles working full time with her own political career. It requires proper planning and time management.

"But I am really enjoying it and excited by the prospect of what we can achieve over the next few years," she said.

Image caption Michael Stewart believes his role as an independent councillor allows him to be more "nimble"

Michael Stewart, from Ballyclare, is a new independent councillor on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

"Perhaps that allows me to be a little more nimble than my fellow councillors and enjoy a more liberated perspective on some of the challenges that lie ahead," he said.

Mr Stewart runs the Love Ballyclare Facebook page and only stood for election after a post suggesting he stand, published on 1 April, gathered momentum.

Adapting to political life has been a "privilege", he said.

A council induction programme has helped with the processes and procedures.

Image caption Bin collections and dog control are two of the less glamorous roles for councils

"A very understanding family circle and good friends" provide further support and a sense of perspective.

Although he has had to learn to be patient.

"I want everything to happen now," he said.

"The challenge for me will be to learn how to prioritise what I need to do and to adapt the way I want to work to make the system work for me.

"It really is fascinating to see local government in action up close and a privilege to be able to play my part."

Image caption Alliance's Rachael Ferguson stood for election after tweeting party leader Naomi Long

The Alliance Party saw its share of the vote increase from 6.7% to 11.5% across Northern Ireland.

Rachael Ferguson is one of two Alliance councillors to take seats on Derry and Strabane Council.

She found herself on the ballot after tweeting Naomi Long about a lack of female representation - so the party leader asked her to stand.

"I know it's only the beginning. I hope in the coming months I will have more of a handle on how things work and what more I can have a positive impact on," she said.

"I thought I'd struggle within the first couple of months, but everyone has been so great and supportive that I've enjoyed every moment so far."

Image caption NI's 11 councils came into being in 2015 after reform of the previous system

Rachael said any given week begins "with a handful of issues and by the end of the week I have a full week planned for the following week".

"I work part time and am still figuring out a balance with work and council meetings, plus I have two children, aged six and four," she added.

"If it is something you're passionate about, it can be done and I think we need to encourage more women to come into politics."

As new councillors get more comfortable with their new surrounds, there is much to get to grips with.

Councils in Northern Ireland have a wide remit with local planning, waste collection and disposal, street cleaning, economic development, and leisure and cultural facilities among the responsibilities.

More on this story