Before entering full time politics in 1993 Eileen was engaged in a number of occupations from civil servant to General Secretary 0f the Alliance Party. She also worked as Development and Welfare Officer in the Peace People where she helped families who were under threat from paramilitary factions during the troubles.
Eileen also brought prisoners families up to the 3 prisons and helped visit their relatives when needed.
She later became C0-0rdinator of the Peace Train which ran 5 Peace Trains mostly between Dublin-Belfast but also to Glasgow and London.
The final train ran one week after the Shankill Bombing and was run at the request of the people of the Shankill Road. During those years Eileen was a member of the Suffolk Residents Association along with her husband and other members of the Suffolk Estate, a small Loyalist estate in West Belfast.
This was a very challenging time which ended with Eileen and her husband being forced out of Belfast and, on advice, moving to Bangor.
Elected to North Down as Councillor for Bangor West May 1993.
Eileen was Chair of the Community Relations and Tourism and Community Development Committees.
She represented the Council on the Local Government Association, the Probation Board, Warwick University Consortium among others Board of Visitors in Crumlin Road Jail just before its closure and was also Company Secretary on the Board of the Somme Association.
She was a delegate in the Political/Peace Talks from 1990 and was also involved in the Dublin Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and the GFA negotiations.
She held Party Portfolios in Human Rights, Community Relations. Victims and Socials issues including Children and Family.
Eileen was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 as Member for North Down and was elected to the Assembly Commission and the Education Committee and the Committee of the First and Deputy Minister’s Committee until 2005.
Later, in that year, she announced that she was standing down from her position as MLA for personal reasons. Eileen also stood down as Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party.
Eileen was subsequently approached by the then Secretary of State Peter Hain and asked to take the post of Speaker/ Presiding Officer of a Transitional N.I. Assembly while negotiations towards Full Devolution could take place in St Andrews.
She was shocked but having been assured that she was the agreed choice by the other parties, she agreed to take up the post. Eileen stood down on the attainment of Devolution after a challenging but positive year and was awarded the CBE in May 2008.
After retirement Eileen became Chairperson of Women into Politics and worked closely with TWN. Eileen is also Vice- President of Autism N.I. and Towns’Womens Guilds.
Eileen has been and still is a member of several other Boards and organisations.