Politicians from the Upper Bann area have reminded their constituents of the importance of community this Christmas.
MP for the area, David Simpson said: “2013 has been a very busy year, we have heard of the creation of jobs, the opening of the multi million pound theatres at Craigavon Area Hospital, additional nursery places for schools and house prices are continuing on the road to recovery.
“However, as we appreciate the good we must not forget that there are still people out there battling to survive and keep their business afloat and to families further afield in the Philippines as they face Christmas without basic food and shelter.
“The end of the year is a time to take particular care of those who are elderly, frail, or lonely.
“This Christmas, let’s all make a difference. Reach out to someone in need, look for opportunities to help others. Our time to them could be the most special gift of all.
Mayor of Craigavon Mark Baxter commented: “It’s a great honour to be the Mayor of Craigavon and I’ve already had the pleasure of attending more than 400 engagements since I was elected.
“Along the way I have met some incredible people and some amazing groups and charities.
“Amid the tinsel, presents and lights, it’s easy to forget that Christmas is also about simple pleasures, like sharing time with others – and saying thank you to those people who make a difference in our communities.
“It’s a time to spend with family and friends, reflect on a busy year passed and plan for 2014 - the New Year ahead.”
Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd said: “On behalf of my fellow elected members in Craigavon and Banbridge and on my own behalf I would like to wish the people of Upper Bann a pleasant and enjoyable Christmas and a happy New Year.
“I hope that everyone enjoys the break and makes the most of the opportunity to spend time with their families and friends.
“We would ask that you think about the welfare of your neighbours, particularly the elderly and those who are their own at this festive time.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Sam Gardiner said: “Christmas time is a time for old certainties.
“It is a time to think about those things that never change no matter what the passing fashion happens to be.
“We can be sure of the Christian message of hope, stretching across the centuries.
“The continuity of that message stands like a rock in a changing world. Continuity matters.
“The continuity represented by the Queen, a person unchanging at the centre of national life, a mother and grandmother-like figure for our whole and very diverse nation is very important for our shared sense of belonging.
“The Queen’s service and dedication to her people is beyond doubt. Christmas is a time to remember these old certainties and to be grateful for them.
“In my own way, I like to contribute to these certainties. My constituents know they can rely on me to work for them and to fight their corner no matter what their political background or affiliation. That is something of which they can be sure.”
He added: “We should all approach this Christmas season with a new focus on helping others, especially those who really need our help – the old and lonely, the vulnerable and weak and those left behind by a society that is too much focussed on the wrong values of self gratification and self interest.
“We need to unite our community by being a community and acting more like a community, by caring more for each other.
“I know that my own guiding principle, as we enter this new year, remains the service of others.”
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has said: “It has been a challenging year for people in the North.
“The economic downturn continues to punish hard working families, the continued threat of scathing welfare reforms has left many of our most vulnerable worried about how they’ll provide for themselves in the future.
“And of course the lives of ordinary, decent people have been constantly disrupted by both flag protests and the unacceptable campaign of violence by dissident republicans.
“In spite of the challenges we’ve faced this year, I remain convinced that we can overcome those whose agenda is opposed to progress.
“We have much to be proud of, and I am proud of the work I’ve undertaken for people in Upper Bann.
“As a member of the social development committee at Stormont, I’m continuing to oppose draconian Welfare cuts and hold Minister Nelson McCausland to account.
“I was pleased to return to the Policing board earlier this year where I am ensuring we have a police service that is accountable and meets the needs of our people.
“And I am also delighted that this year I have been able to open a new office in Brownlow which is providing support and advice to people in the Craigavon community.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson commented: “Every Christmas time brings with it a fresh opportunity for Christians to once again celebrate the birth of Jesus and God’s promise of peace, hope and love for all.
“Recently I have met with so many local people who through their selfless generosity reach out to others, helping those must vulnerable and in need in our society.
“Their work, often quiet and unsung helps to deliver the true meaning of Christmas.
“At this time of year let us also remember those members of Her Majesty’s Forces serving both at home and in over 80 countries overseas - spending Christmas thousands of miles from their families and friends.
“The dedicated men and women of our emergency services, who work so hard to help those in need, are also in my thoughts and prayers.”
Upper Bann MLA Sydney Anderson said: “I remain confident that Northern Ireland will keep on moving forward, and there are encouraging signs of economic recovery.
“Whatever lies ahead, I want to assure you that I will be doing all I can to protect public services, especially in the health and education sectors, to encourage economic and business growth, and to continue to provide a reliable service to all my constituents.”