SDLP MP Mark Durkan has admitted that the startling developments regarding the party’s ex-candidate Jimmy Carr will have damaged voter confidence.
Speaking during the Derry Strabane count at Templemore Sports Complex last night, Mr Durkan however said that the party did not tell people not to vote for Mr Carr.
Jimmy Carr failed to get elected to the Ballyarnett ward after he quit the party on the eve of the election and stood as an independent.
He managed to get 605 first preference votes in the area, but came seventh overall with just six seats up for grabs.
Mr Carr, who as an existing councillor will remain on Derry City Council until the new Derry Strabane supercouncil comes into being in 2015, has alleged that he was accused him of being a drug dealer at a recent party committee meeting, before the accusation was retracted.
It emerged earlier this week that a Derry City Council issued device containing reportedly “questionable” messages was handed over to the PSNI. A second device has also been handed over to police.
The PSNI have said they are considering examining the devices to see if any potentially criminal activity has occurred.
Mr Carr has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence of any wrong doing.
Mr Durkan meanwhile has denied that the party has made any accusations against Mr Carr.
Referring to the party document issued by the SDLP on the matter, the Foyle MP said:
“The statement was clear. Other candidates were released from the obligation to commend his candidacy because questions were arising.
“We made no accusation against anyone. The SDLP have alleged nothing and certainly have not made any findings.
“The two statements put out fully recorded his assertions of innocence over any involvement in the messages which led the councillor to hand over a device. “
Mr Durkan added that it has subsequently emerged that another councillor from another party had previously handed another device over to police.
When asked whether the events surrounding Jimmy Carr’s departure had affected confidence in the SDLP locally, Mr Durkan said:
“Nobody can say it didn’t. When you have attacks on the party, headlines saying ‘dirty tricks’, of course things like that will affect public confidence.
“We are concerned by that,” he said.
He said that the issues arising from this week’s developments would still have to be dealt with in the time ahead.
Mr Durkan said that the SDLP had taken the decision to put forward a number of fresh, young candidates for the new council, after being criticised in the past for not doing so.
He added that such a move was always going to involve a certain amount of risk.
Speaking after the party failed to win a third seat in Ballyarnett, he said:
“We appreciate the support we got and we respect the votes that have gone to others, not least some of the independents.
“It’s clear there were strong campaigns by independents on issues that mattered.
“We also have to take the message from the many people who didn’t vote and the reasons they gave us why.”
He said that potential voters who decided not to vote had given reasons including a lack of delivery at Stormont and a lack of confidence in the new supercouncil structures.