REV Dr Robert Coulter MBE, the retiring Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member for North Antrim and Stormont Commissioner, has thanked his constituents for the “tremendous honour and privilege” of representing them at the Assembly since 1998.
Rev Dr Coulter, who at the age of 81 was the unofficial Deputy Father of the House, said he was leaving the Assembly with “a wealth of happy memories of the many people I have met over my years in public life”.
At the time of his retirement from Stormont, Rev Dr Coulter was the longest serving member of the Assembly Commission, a position he held since he was first elected to Stormont in 1998.
Last year, the Queen conferred an MBE on Rev Coulter to mark his services to the Commission.
Rev Dr Coulter is also the outgoing UUP Spokesman on Employment and Learning, having served alongside his party colleague and Employment and Learning Minister Mr Danny Kennedy. Rev Coulter was also a member of the Department of Employment and Learning Committee as well as the Standards and Privileges Committee.
He had previously served on the Health Committee and been party health spokesman. Rev Coulter was a Ballymena Borough councillor from 1985-2001 and served three years as Mayor (1993-96).
He also represented North Antrim in the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue (1996-98) where he was UUP Chief Whip. He is active with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association where he has represented the Assembly in Australia, South Africa and India.
He said: “I have decided to retire from the Assembly to spend more time with my family. They have supported me faithfully since I fought my first election in 1983. They have stood solidly behind me though my days in council, the Forum and the Assembly. While I enjoy the challenges of politics, my first love is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would like to spend whatever time the Lord has allocated to me preaching that wonderful message.”
Reflecting on his major achievements as an MLA over the past 13 years, he said: “Serving the people of North Antrim and hopefully making a significant contribution to the quality of their lives. Being part of the historical peace process which returned devolved powers to Northern Ireland. Playing a role in a partnership Assembly which has also secured Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom. I was directly responsible for breaking the communication logjam when the MPs were going to jail. I also was elected on the first count along with Ian Paisley in the 2003 Assembly poll.”