WESTMINSTER hopeful, Diana Armstrong, knows all too well the level of commitment that a career in politics requires.

Daughter of the former UUP leader, the late Harry West, she fondly recounts growing up in a "family of politics", and the distances her father would drive, often on poor roads, to represent his constituents.

This exposure to the throes of public life left a lasting impact on her, and Diana entered politics in her own right seven years ago as a UUP councillor for Erne North.

nd she could now be set to follow in her father's footsteps in Westminster, having recently been selected by the UUP to stand in the upcoming election.

Diana said she is "filled with pride" following her selection, and added that she hopes to serve as a positive example to other women with political ambitions.

"I'm really pleased to be selected," she said. "I have been asked and encouraged informally for a number of years, so felt it was the right time to take the leap.

"I think it's a good step, and I'm doing it off the back of six years as an elected representative at local government level.

"I have a good understanding of my area, and I am looking forward to getting out and about, meeting people, and hearing what their concerns are."

The influence of the late Harry West hasn't been forgotten in Fermanagh. In the UUP office, where this interview took place, a framed photo of him sits on the wall.

"It fills me with pride to potentially follow in my father's footsteps," Diana said.

"Growing up in a family of politics, I know the commitment that's required.

"My father really felt that he wanted to work for the people of Fermanagh, and it is a testament to his legacy that we have the CAFRE college here in Enniskillen. He was very much a 'grassroots' person.

"I like to think I have followed his example and dedicated myself to this area."
Undoubtedly, the political environment has changed drastically in Northern Ireland since Harry West's day.

Recent weeks have seen seismic developments, with the restoration of powersharing seeing the appointment of the first Irish Republican First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, who serves alongside Deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, from the DUP.

Speaking on these developments, Diana said: "We live in a world of democracy, and I accept that is a democratic right to serve as First Minister.

"I welcome Stormont being reconvened. In the absence of government, our people were faced with a lot of challenges. There is hard work ahead, but the good will [between the parties] is there, moving forward."

Diana added that the appointment of two female leaders of Northern Ireland is also significant.

"As for two females in the leading roles, I feel that is such a good example to set for women," she said. 

"Now that we have two women at the head of Stormont, I do hope that inspires confidence for a female looking to go into politics.

"In our party, we have a good pipeline of female representatives, and we have a good cohort coming through.

"Yes, there can be difficulties for women [in politics], and it requires family support and organisation, but I do feel women have so many talents and abilities that are very useful in political spheres." 

Undoubtedly, the talents of all politicians will be required to make politics work in Northern Ireland, with local people feeling the impact of almost two years without a government.

If elected, Diana feels she would be in a prime position to address some of the burning issues facing residents of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, including the stripping of services at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH).

"Speaking to local people, it's clear that one of the biggest things was the situation at the SWAH," she said. "This is something we need to protect.

“We need to do our best to restore the Emergency General Surgery at the hospital.

"In terms of other issues, people feel constrained with a lack of infrastructure and the condition of our roads.

“While this is a devolved issue, I do feel that a representative at Westminster can make the argument there.

"Unfortunately we have had no representation for 18 out of the past 20 years. I feel strongly that Westminster doesn't know Fermanagh and South Tyrone. They don't know what this region has to offer.

"We have a state-of-the-art college for our young people. We have exemplary Green technologies coming through in industry. We have the ambition to realise [the redevelopment of] Fermanagh Lakeland Forum, which has resulted from a levelling up fund of £20m.

"We need vision and ambition for the district. It's so important to show that there are people in this district willing to put themselves forward to make sure our voice is heard."

For Diana, achieving what is best for local people will always be tied to the Union.

As a "proud Unionist", she is keen to communicate the benefits of being in the UK.

"I see the benefits of the Union," she said, with resolve. "My role will be to help people understand the benefit of remaining part of the United Kingdom.

"The UK is the sixth-largest economy in the world. People are coming here because of the strengths of that economy, and I think that's a very good thing for us at this time.

"In terms of the standard of living we enjoy, it's [the Union] very beneficial."

As of yet, no definite dates for the Westminster election have been revealed.

However, as parties begin to select candidates, Diana rejected local speculation of a 'unity' candidate between other Unionist parties, such as the DUP.

"I have been selected by the Ulster Unionist Party, and it's up to the other parties to make that decision," she said. "I can't speak on their behalf."

Nonetheless, Diana has pledged that, if elected, she will be a "representative for the entire community".

"I have always taken great satisfaction in being able to sort out issues for people," she said.

"People have put their faith in me as a councillor. I have been very dedicated in my district, I am well-known, I have benefitted from being Chair and Vice-Chair of the Council.

"I feel I can represent everyone across the entire community, and I have enjoyed doing this over the past seven years."

"I will represent. I will work hard," she added.