From Zero to Hero – Cllr Gavin Malone – a blog by Dan Gebski.
Someone once said: “Actions speak louder than words”. When I look at recently elected councillor Gavin Malone, he is an prime example of this quote. A community worker, a father, a family man, a people person and a voice for Newry and Mourne. That is councillor Gavin Malone.
Questions and Answers:
Dan Gebski: Gavin, who is a Hero for you? Would you consider yourself a local Hero?
Gavin Malone: Hero for me it is a very good question Dan. There are loads of Heroes within my life time. People who sacrifice their own time to help others in their struggles. My childhood Heroes were absolutely the footballers as I love football. I have had movie film Heroes as well, the main one I can remember well was “Napoleon”. I absolutely do not consider myself a local Hero. I am just like everybody else a part of my community and very humbled that the people came out in large numbers and gave me a vote. Young people, elderly people, new nationals and people who never voted before. It was a very long hard road but I am glad where I am now and looking forward to it.
DG: Could you tell me more about yourself? Family? Career?
GM: I was born in place called Cecile Street in Newry, and it is just over beside the new Leisure Centre. Then our family moved in later years to the Barcroft area. At the time when I was young we had the Police barracks beside us. Within that time the conflict was rising in our area so my parents moved house to a quieter area. I don’t really think there was any danger towards myself or family. I suppose I was very young and couldn’t see any different. It was the way life was going and I didn’t pass any remarks at that time. When I was 14 years old, my father and mother separated. It was just me, my mum and my older brother. I have to say it was challenging at times but we made the best we could out of it. I am happy father of four children and hope my kids are proud of me. I used to work for the former Newry and Mourne District Council for 19 years. I have worked as a street cleaner and bin man. I have had a fantastic time and absolutely loved it and made great friends during that time.
DG: Tell me why is it important to have a voice in community?
GM: I have always been interested in community work and politics but my turning point was me joining the community group called Barcroft Ballybot Residents Association. It was formed to get people to engage in the community more and work together. The work this group is doing it is really benefiting the community.
DG: I know you were thinking for a long time of standing in the local government election and then you made decision to do so? Could you tell me did you ever expect to be elected?
GM: I certainly didn’t expect the number of people that came out and voted for me. While myself and my team were canvassing around the town we were getting very positive feedback, so we were sort of optimistic but never sure of the final result. When the results came out I was just overwhelmed that the people voted in so large numbers for myself as an independent candidate.
DG: How did you feel the night before the election results?
GM: I wasn’t sleeping at all because I was thinking, could I do any better on my election effort. At that stage of the night before the results there is not much you can do anymore. It is very hard to describe but I was nervous and excited all at the same time.
DG: What ‘new’ message or type of plan would you like to deliver to people in Newry? What are the biggest challenges?
GM: There are loads of big challenges ahead, for example we are trying to get a play park at Albert Basin. The new message is try to raise more community activism. I think we should concentrate more on our elderly neighbours and educate young people about getting involved in our community. I would like to make every person equally important in our community, no matter who they are or where they coming from.
DG: If you had to encourage any person who is considering having a voice in their community, what would you say to them?
GM: I would say that everyone has a role to play in our community and no role is too small and no role is too big. Whether it is a person 14 years old helping to keep our streets clean and helping others. For example, getting the elderly to get to bingo in our community centre. Everybody should feel they are serving our community and to always ask themselves what can they do to help or improve our community life. I think this will always come along with the positive attitude of people involved. As I’m always saying and especially now if you’ve got any issue, don’t be afraid to give me a call and if I can help you, I will with to best of my ability. I have to say my phone has never stopped since I have been elected. I have no magic wand but I can signpost people to the experts who will provide support for them. My thoughts really are that I’m a very approachable person who wants to help others in the best possible way.
DG: Can we Polish or any EU citizens rely on you in relation in any help regarding basic life issues?
GM: Absolutely yes! I have Polish friends, and Lithuanian and Latvian friends. I actually went to the gym for the first time after I got elected because I needed to destress. My Polish friend who works in the gym gave me a big hug. I thought this gesture was very nice and genuine and I really appreciated this. Obviously at the present time, I don’t have a lot of contacts in the Polish community, that is why you are very useful as a go between as you know a lot of people within the Polish community, so I hope you will help point me and them in the right direction.
DG: I am not afraid to say this…Gavin you are definitely a local hero and everything you achieved and done in your life is by your own hard work and determination. I wish you the very best of luck and I hope to talk to you very soon again.
GM: Let me just add Dan, I want to make this clear, I think you are a local Hero too, you made massive efforts and strides to engage with local people as a go between with new nationals in the area. I think it is very important and I think you are at the top of that ladder and everyone knows that in Newry.
DG: Thank you Gavin I do appreciate your words! And congratulations on being elected as councillor and well done for taking part in my project.
GM: Thank you again Dan!