East Antrim DUP MLA David Hilditch stepping away from public life due to ill-health

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Long-serving East Antrim MLA David Hilditch today (Friday) announced he is stepping down from the role due to ill-health.

The DUP representative’s resignation from the Assembly will take effect from midnight. A former Carrickfergus Mayor and councillor, Mr Hilditch is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Paying tribute to his colleague, party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said: “David was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and was one of only three of the class of 1998 remaining. His retirement marks the completion of a remarkable thirty-two years of public service to the people of Carrickfergus, East Antrim and indeed Northern Ireland.”

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David first entered local government in 1991, winning a by-election in the Castle district of Carrickfergus Borough Council. During his time on the local authority, he served as Deputy Mayor 1994 – 1996, and in 1997 he was elected as Mayor, serving a second term 2004 – 2008.

David Hilditch (centre) delivering his letter of resignation from the Assembly at Stormont, accompanied by DUP colleagues, Councillors Cheryl Brownlee and Marc Collins. Photo submitted by the DUPDavid Hilditch (centre) delivering his letter of resignation from the Assembly at Stormont, accompanied by DUP colleagues, Councillors Cheryl Brownlee and Marc Collins. Photo submitted by the DUP
David Hilditch (centre) delivering his letter of resignation from the Assembly at Stormont, accompanied by DUP colleagues, Councillors Cheryl Brownlee and Marc Collins. Photo submitted by the DUP

Following his election to the Assembly in 1998, the former Royal Mail worker also delivered the seat for the DUP in 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2022.

Sir Jeffrey added: “On each occasion the people of East Antrim put their faith in him to work for them and he did not let them down. As a DUP MLA he has been a fine example of representative who never forgot where he came from and was rooted in and focused on the needs of his local community.

"He has been a dedicated, consistent and active member of our party for many decades, always helping and supporting colleagues locally and throughout Northern Ireland.

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“In recent years, he served on the Committee for the Economy, Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Audit Committee and Education Committee. He has also served as a member on numerous all-party groups, including sports and physical recreation, football, cycling, animal welfare and reducing harm related to gambling. His commitment to his local town of Carrick is unrivalled.

David Hilditch (left) taking part in a King William Landing pageant in Carrickfergus. Photo: National WorldDavid Hilditch (left) taking part in a King William Landing pageant in Carrickfergus. Photo: National World
David Hilditch (left) taking part in a King William Landing pageant in Carrickfergus. Photo: National World

“David has faced his illness with determination and dignity. I know the thoughts, prayers and best wishes of colleagues not just in the DUP, but across the political spectrum are with him as he steps down from public life.”

A prominent figure in the Loyal Orders, Mr Hilditch is Chief Marshall of Carrickfergus District LOL No. 19, which he also served as District Master for seven years.

He is well-known in Irish League football circles too following a long association with Carrick Rangers FC, where he is a director. His late son Stuart, who died after a brave cancer battle in 2019, played for the Taylor’s Avenue-based club.

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Mr Hilditch, a Carrickfergus Grammar School old boy, entered public office as a member of the legacy Carrickfergus Borough Council in 1991 after winning a Castle by-election. He is also Involved with a host of groups and organisations in Carrickfergus, including the role of vice-president with Carrick, Whitehouse and Agnes Street Brass Band.

A member of Carrickfergus Historical Re-enactment Group, he is an annual participant in the King William Landing pageant, which draws thousands of visitors to the town in June.

In a statement after hand delivering the letter of resignation to the Speaker's Office at Stormont, Mr Hilditch said: “ Today, I officially submitted my letter of resignation, informing the Speaker of my intention to retire from the Northern Ireland Assembly on ill-health grounds. It has been the honour of a life time to have served the good people of East Antrim as their MLA since 1998, as well as a councillor from 1991.

"I feel an immense sense of pride to have amassed over three decades of public service, and I will be forever grateful to the good people of East Antrim for their continued faith and support during my time in office.”

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Mr Hilditch was accompanied by Mid and East Antrim DUP Councillors Cheryl Brownlee and Marc Collins as he brought the curtain down on his political career. And he had special praise for them as he battles his illness.

He continued: “I want to thank my party colleagues in the Democratic Unionist Party, I am proud to have served under the DUP banner and to have served with so many incredible people, many of whom I am glad to call friends.

“I would also like to say a special word of thanks to all of my staff who have worked tirelessly and diligently in my office over the years. A particular mention to Cheryl and Marc, who have been with me through the most difficult time in my life. Their support and friendship has been invaluable in recent times, and I thank them for their continued professionalism in maintaining operations at the office during this troubled time.

"In finishing, I would like to say that I will cherish the memories of the last 32 years, the ups and downs, the good and the bad, and I wish whoever the new DUP MLA for East Antrim may be, all the success in the world moving forward.”

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Away from politics, Mr Hilditch is a keen golfer and an avid Glasgow Rangers, Spurs and Northern Ireland supporter.

Picking up on these and other interests, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said: “Since elected to Carrickfergus Council in 1991, Davy Hilditch has been known as ‘Mr DUP’ in the Carrick area. He is well connected to his constituents through his involvement in the loyal orders, football clubs and community groups and from his previous job as a postman.

"He worked tireless and diligently on behalf of individual constituents and the general community. He won huge respect which was reflected in the votes he achieved at council and Assembly level.

“Despite fighting serious illness Davy never faltered in his dedication in the responsibility that he had as a public representative and only withdrew when it became apparent his illness was preventing him from carrying out those duties.

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"We thank him for the service he gave to the party, strengthening the party brand in the area and faithfully upholding the unionist cause. We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Echoing these sentiments, fellow East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons said: “I want to pay tribute to Davy and his decades of service to Carrickfergus and East Antrim. As an MLA, councillor and Mayor he has faithfully served his constituents and their interests.

"No-one could knock doors in Carrickfergus and not hear many stories from people who Davy has helped over the years. His length of service and electoral record is testament to the high regard he is held in."