It has been a whirlwind few weeks of highs and low for Lurgan man Ciaran Toman.
The 32-year-old was deeply disappointed to lose his seat as an SDLP councillor at last month’s council elections.
But his mood was short-lived thanks to the unexpected arrival just days later of his first child – daughter Cecilia – who make her appearance three weeks early on May 28.
And despite being unprepared – he and his wife Kathleen had no baby food in the house and the car seat and pram they ordered hadn’t arrived – Ciaran believes her birth came at just the right time.
“It was a bit unexpected. Kathleen went in for her check-up and I got the call to say they were taking her in that evening,” he said.
“I was at a low, mentally and physically, after the election because I had put so much effort into it, so it probably was a blessing Cecilia came early. I want to thank Kathleen for bringing this bundle of joy into my life.
“I also got a lot of support on social media, and people wishing me well, and I am very much thankful for that.”
And having spent much of the past two years devoting himself to community matters, he is now looking forward to having more time to spend with his family.
Ciaran, who had served with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council since being co-opted after Joe Nelson stood down in 2020, is pretty philosophical about the outcome of the election.
The SDLP lost five of its six seats, with the only councillor managing to retain his being Thomas O’Hanlon, now the sole representative on the council.
“Personally, I am pretty disappointed but the people have spoken and it is now over to those elected to represent our community to the best of their ability,” he said.
“I did lead a positive campaign of local delivery and local communities, and the reaction on the doorsteps was very good.”
However, he said he was “even more disappointed” for the communities as they had lost “some of the most hardworking champions I have known”.
“But we were very much aware of the political context we were operating in,” he added. “I could sense from speaking to people, especially within nationalism, that they were very angry and fed up and obviously wanted to send a message to the DUP to get back to work and there was an element of this at play.”
Ciaran will continue to be a member of the SDLP and is a strong supporter of leader Colum Eastwood and his message of ‘ending division and building a new Ireland together’.
And although his time will be limited – he has a full-time job as a project coordinator in Almac – he adds, ‘I still want to do the best for my community and if someone reaches out for help I will do all I can for them”.
Ciaran, who became involved in politics after being diagnosed with a heart condition and having to give up sport, said his proudest achievement during his time as an elected representative was the agreement for the £130,000 masterplan of Lurgan Park, which will include lighting, toilet provision and the development of the website.
It is expected to be one of the first items to come before the new council.
“I will be keeping a close eye on that and working closely with Thomas O’Hanlon to ensure the SDLP continue to lead on this issue,” he said.
“I learned that you can actually make a real difference by working together with other political parties and that’s what politics should really be about, working to a common ground and finding a positive legacy or solution for the borough.”