Reg joined the Party at Queen's University Belfast and has held many positions in the Officer team and was Leader 2005-2010.
Reg was elected to Belfast City Council and was Lord Mayor 1989-90 and again 1993-94.

Reg was a senior negotiator in the peace process leading up to the Belfast Agreement and served as Minister of Enterprise Trade and Investment 1999-2002 with a brief period as First Minister in 2001 and Minister for Employment and Learning 2007-2010. Reg was MLA for East Belfast 1998-2011, City Councillor 1985-2010, Member of the Committee of the Regions, Brussels 1994-2002. Lord Empey was appointed a Peer in 2011. Reg has served on 9 Parliamentary Committees and is currently a Member of the Select Committee on Youth Unemployment and a Member of the EU sub Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

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