The SDLP in East Derry have expressed shock and sadness at the sudden resignation of Conall McDevitt from the party, but say given his high political standards he had no other option but to quit.
Mr McDevitt says he failed to declare more than £6,000 earned from a public relations company shortly after he was appointed as an MLA.
He said he failed in his duty to uphold the standards expected of an MLA.
The money was paid by his former company, Weber Shandwick, for Mr McDevitt to mentor the company team that replaced him after his election.
“My failure to register these interests at the time means that I have fallen below the standards of expected of me in public office,” Mr. McDevitt said on Wednesday. “I apologise unreservedly for my failures in this regard. It has been the greatest honour of my professional life to serve the people of South Belfast and the SDLP since January 2010.”
SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat said the dramatic departure by Conall McDevitt is a loss for “society as a whole”.
“Conall McDevitt was a personal friend, representative of a new generation of young people, not blinded by history but with a vision for a future inclusive of everyone,” MLA Dallat told the ‘Journal’.
“The loss is not just for the SDLP and the Assembly, but for society as a whole. It could not have come at a worse time, given the political uncertainty and an apparent drift back towards paramilitary groups,” said Mr. Dallat, who added: “I am sorry he felt the need to resign, but fully understand the reasons why he did it. I sat beside him at Party Group meetings and I will miss Conall a lot, but I wish him, his wife and family every success in the future, whatever he does.”
In Limavady, SDLP councillors Michael Coyle and Gerry Mullan agreed the departure of the 41-year-old outgoing MLA would be a loss.
“I’m surprised and shocked because Conall was always somebody who was meticulous in how he approached political life,” said Colr. Coyle. “It will be a great loss to the party but, because of his standards, it was a decision he felt he had to make. Certainly he will be missed, but only he could make that decision and, again, because he’d set that high standard he had no other option.”
Colr. Mullan said: “It will be a great loss to the people of South Belfast who he represented and it will also be a tremendous loss to his colleagues. I think he has done the decent thing, to admit what he did was wrong.”