A former Stormont MLA, who stepped away from the Assembly to care for her elderly parents, has not ruled out a return in the future to frontline politics.
DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley announced last March that she would not seek re-election for her North Belfast Assembly seat.
A few months later she was co-opted as a representative on Antrim and Newtownabbey Council.
Reflecting on her decision to leave Stormont, Ms Bradley said it was a difficult decision, and while she misses her old life, she has no regrets and is enjoying getting to spend more time with her mum.
“It’s been difficult, I miss my previous life, I miss the people but I wouldn’t change a thing, I’m really enjoying being at home with my mum, she keeps me in line, and going out and doing all the things we used to do,” she told the PA news agency.
“I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity, I know lots of people don’t get that opportunity, but it’s not easy.
“Whenever I was working full time as an MLA I maybe only saw my parents on a Saturday or an evening a week, which really wasn’t enough, and I have regrets about that as well, that I didn’t spend enough time, that at times when mum was much more able, I wasn’t there.
“I grew up in a household where my mum was always a busy woman, worked full time, I had a good role model, a good work ethic.”
Ms Bradley said she is enjoying council, describing it as “feeling a bit like coming home” as she had sat on the old Newtownabbey Council for eight years.
“Lots of faces that I know, the new council is a little bit different, but it’s good,” she said.
“Some may question why I went back to council, but I think others who know me, who live in the community I represent are glad that I’m back on the council, because they don’t want to see me giving it all up, I’m not giving up everything that I worked so hard to achieve.
“It’s nice to still have a voice and still be part of my party.”
Ms Bradley said she would rule out nothing for the future.
“I am now 53, I have learnt over the years that nothing is out of the question, I never thought I’d be an elected representative never mind an MLA or deputy leader of my party, you never rule anything out in elected politics,” she said.
Ms Bradley became deputy leader of the DUP during a turbulent time for the party in 2021 when Edwin Poots was briefly leader after Arlene Foster was ousted from the helm.
She remained deputy leader when Sir Jeffrey Donaldson became leader in June 2021.
She said she has always felt supported and encouraged by her party during 18 years as a elected representative.
However she said she left the social media platform Twitter due to abuse.
“I came off Twitter two years ago, I haven’t missed it, it hasn’t made a button of difference being off it,” she said.
“That’s horrible when you face criticism from people because of, quite often how you look or how you dress, because you’re in the party you’re in, people think they can beat you.
“It happens to people in all parties, especially female politicians, it can be really distressing and really hurtful some of the things people say.
“At the end of the day, I’m still a mum, I’m still a granny. It used to really hurt my children when they saw some of the stuff people put up, they used to get really annoyed about it.
“That’s why I made the conscious decision to cull social media, I don’t need it in my life.
“I haven’t missed it at all and now I know I didn’t need it.”