SDLP fall out in East Derry rumbles on

Gerry Mullan and John Dallat at the count centre in Derry last year. Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.comGerry Mullan and John Dallat at the count centre in Derry last year. Photo Lorcan Doherty /
Gerry Mullan and John Dallat at the count centre in Derry last year. Photo Lorcan Doherty /
The fall out between the SDLP and the party's outgoing East Derry MLA Gerry Mullan continues to rumble on.

Gerry Mullan had been a member of the SDLP for 17 years and was elected as the MLA for East Derry last May. He replaced John Dallat who had served in the NI Assembly since 1998.

However, less than a year later, Mr. Dallat has come out of retirement to stand for the SDLP in East Derry after he was selected by a panel which included former SDLP deputy leader Brid Rogers.

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Mr. Dallat said he decided to return to politcs after becoming increasingly disillusioned by scandals, including the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme and concerns about the actions of assembly speaker, the DUP’s Robin Newton.

The move sparked a bitter row and, on Monday of this week, Mr. Mullan announced he was cutting ties with the SDLP and would run as an independent candidate in the March 2 poll.

Mr. Mullan said it was with “utmost regret and disappointment” he had been “forced to surrender my allegiance to a party whose founding principles of fairness and equality I have so strongly upheld since its inception”.

When asked by the ‘Journal’ about Mr. Mullan’s announcement, a spokesperson for the SDLP said: “It is disappointing that Gerry Mullan has decided to contest the upcoming Assembly election despite declaring that he would support the SDLP candidate.”

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When asked why he had said he would support the SDLP candidate, but was now running as an independent Mr. Mullan told the ‘Journal’ he had changed his mind.

Mr. Mullan, a former Causeway Coast & Glens Borough councillor and Mayor of Limavady, added: “The party are in no position to lecture me about respect or, indeed, any of the constituency party activists in East Derry as they were denied the right to have any say in who they want to represent the party in East Derry.”

After Gerry Mullan was selected by the SDLP last year, John Dallat said in a statement: “I am delighted that Gerry has been endorsed by the party centrally. I want to see all the electorate represented by someone who is committed to the welfare of people and has, as a priority, the creation of jobs and security for this and future generations. Gerry is that person and he has goodwill of all the elected and party faithful in this constituency.”

In the same statement, Gerry Mullan paid tribute to Mr. Dallat who he said had “served with courage and dedication, always putting people first”.