‘Proud to serve’: the politician who swapped Stormont for a pub

Rachel Woods praised for defending importance of hospitality workers after taking pub job after losing seat

When Rachel Woods lost her seat in Northern Ireland’s assembly election she returned to a job she knew and loved: working in a pub.

The 33-year-old Green party representative had cooked, scrubbed and pulled pints since she was a teenager and saw no shame in doing so again.

Social media trolls however scorned Woods as if she were demeaned by toiling in the Dirty Duck Alehouse and restaurant in Holywood, County Down.

Woods hit back. “Tonight I was very weirdly slabbered at for working in a pub and kitchen after not being returned in #AE22,” she tweeted, referring to the assembly elections held in May. “#Hospitality workers should never be looked down on, we do ‘proper’ jobs & for so many people, their chosen career. I am proud to serve no matter where. #UppaWorkers.”

The riposte on 30 October prompted a wave of support that continues to swell a month later, with social media commentators and Northern Ireland newspapers this week hailing Woods for puncturing snobbery and stigma.

No one who works in any job should be denigrated for how they earn their living. How you will be back in the Assembly soon - your voice is needed.

— Dr. Bríd McGrath (@BridMcGrath) October 30, 2022

Prominent people disclosed their own stints cleaning toilets, waiting on tables, delivering newspapers and other unglamorous jobs – albeit all in the past.

Woods said she would continue to tackle prejudice about hospitality work. “This attitude that it’s not a proper job is endemic, it’s deeply rooted,” she said in an interview on Wednesday after a shift at the Dirty Duck. “People will ask ‘what are you planning on doing after you leave here?’ I’m in no rush to go and get a supposed proper job. This is proper work.”

After losing her seat in the assembly election she did not hesitate to return to the pub for just above the “real living wage” of £10.90. “There wasn’t another political job waiting for me so what was I going to do? I’ve got to keep a roof over my head.”

Woods has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and has worked as a financial analyst, but has no desire to do so again. “I’ve worked in terrible offices. But in hospitality you’re almost like a family. And I like socialising with people.”

The trolling belittled not just her but waiters, kitchen porters and others dedicated to their work, she said. “They were having a go at my colleagues. It’s physical labour, it’s hard work, and people who work in the industry should be celebrated. This can be a valuable career.”

Snobs overlooked the camaraderie and flexibility, said Woods. “My colleagues feel it’s a good job and they’re proud.” Society prioritised material wealth and treated low paid work as a failure, she said. “It’s not. If people are coming in to work and they’re happy and can keep a roof over their heads, that’s what matters.”

Woods has returned to politics – she was co-opted on to North Down and Ards borough council in September – but is keeping the day job. On Thursday she will work 10am to 10pm, on Friday 5pm to 2am, on Saturday from midday to 9pm, and Sunday 10am to 10pm. On Monday she does council work. “It’s all go. I don’t have a day off. I work seven days a week. I like to be busy.”

Contributor

Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
No new Covid restrictions in England before new year, Boris Johnson says
No extra curbs for New Year’s Eve, with prime minister to put emphasis on personal responsibility

Jessica Elgot and Nicola Davis

27, Dec, 2021 @8:56 PM

Article image
Wales to enforce tough new Covid rules across hospitality industry
Indoor entertainment also hit as first minister says lack of earlier curbs may have been a mistake

Steven Morris and Rory Carroll

27, Nov, 2020 @3:10 PM

Article image
What are Covid rules in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Announcement that there will be no new rules in England before new year puts it at odds with rest of UK

Léonie Chao-Fong

27, Dec, 2021 @7:41 PM

Article image
Women boycott UK bars and clubs to demand action on drink-spiking
Action planned in 45 cities amid calls for entry searches, training for bar staff and covers for drinks

Libby Brooks and Scarlet Pestell

27, Oct, 2021 @1:53 PM

Article image
Stormont candidate ‘grabbed by throat’ while canvassing
Hannah Kenny was subjected to sectarian and misogynistic abuse by three men in east Belfast

Tom Ambrose and agency

30, Apr, 2022 @4:14 PM

Article image
Holyrood and Stormont reject 'disastrous' Brexit trade deal
Scottish and Northern Irish parliaments condemn deal in symbolic votes as Westminster backs it

Severin Carrell and Rory Carroll

30, Dec, 2020 @5:19 PM

Article image
Stormont stalemate risks patients’ lives, medical leaders warn
Healthcare organisations say failure to form an executive on Friday could worsen Northern Ireland’s NHS crisis

Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent

12, May, 2022 @12:44 PM

Article image
DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson criticised over Stormont boycott threat
Leader accused of holding region to ransom with vow not to revive power sharing until Brexit protocol is ditched

Rory Carroll and Lisa O'Carroll

04, May, 2022 @12:24 PM

Article image
Why is Northern Ireland facing another Stormont election?
DUP boycotted power-sharing executive over post-Brexit Irish Sea border and if not revived by midnight election must be called

Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent

27, Oct, 2022 @10:59 AM

Article image
Stormont assembly's consent required before Brexit, court told
Process of leaving European Union would involve ‘driving a wedge’ between Northern Ireland and Irish Republic, lawyers argue

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

07, Dec, 2016 @7:35 PM