Claire became MLA for South Belfast in July 2015, being returned to the Assembly in 2016 and again following a snap election in 2017. She was previously elected as councillor for the Balmoral area in 2011 and 2014.
An SDLP member and campaigner for over ten years, Claire previously worked in the field of international development — most recently in a policy and education role having served in countries including Bangladesh, Haiti and Zambia.
Claire is the SDLP Finance Spokesperson. She is deputy chair of the Assembly Finance Committee and chairs the All Party Groups on International Development and The Arts and Creativity.
Belfast City Council
Claire is committed to issue-based politics and delivering social and economic justice. She brought the motion that led to Belfast becoming the first Living Wage Council on the island of Ireland, paying a fair wage to all employees, and introduced measures to combat the rise of predatory pay day lending.
In 2015 she successfully amended Council’s procurement policies to shine a light on tax dodging, levelling the playing field for our local businesses and tackling companies who fail to pay their fair share in developing countries.
During her time in Belfast City Council, Claire developed a reputation as a diligent case worker, problem solver and advocate for local services.
She led successful campaigns for the reinstatement of Lisburn Road Post Office in 2013, better traffic management in Finaghy in 2014 and on a variety of issues like improved recycling facilities and sustainable transport.
Claire is passionate about the arts and secured all party agreement to award the Freedom of Belfast to poet Michael Longley, also initiating the campaign to name the new Greenway bridge after playwright and trade unionist Sam Thompson.
During her time as Chair of Belfast City Council’s Town Planning Committee, Claire pushed for sensitive development to protect the unique character of South Belfast, as well as pursuing major upgrades in infrastructure to prevent flooding in Finaghy and Upper Malone.
Claire represented the SDLP on the Historic Centenaries and Diversity Committee in Council, tackling politically sensitive issues like flags, language policy and commemorations, she also served on the board of Libraries NI and the Lyric Theatres Education Advisory Panel.
Born in the Connemara Gaeltacht, Claire has lived in South Belfast since the age of 3.
She went to school at St Bride’s Primary and Rathmore Grammar and has recently completed a Masters in Law at Queen’s University, Belfast.
Claire is married to Donal and they have two young daughters.