SDLP meet again after shock Quigley move

SDLP members met in Derry last night to formally chose an Assembly replacement for Mark Durkan after a chaotic week for the party locally with the shock departure of Helen Quigley.

Last night's selection convention in the City Hotel was expected to ratify Pl Callaghan's co-option to the Assembly.

The meeting came in a turbulent week for the SDLP locally with the party's leader on Derry City Council's shock announcement that she is to step down from public life.

Former mayor Helen Quigley - one of the most high-profile SDLP representatives locally - announced on Tuesday that she will not contest the next Assembly or local government elections. She is also expected to step down as group leader on Derry City Council.

Party sources have indicated that colr. Quigley's unexpected announcement is linked to an internal row within the party over how the process to find a replacement for Mr Durkan was handled.

Colr. Quigley had been chosen along with colr Mark H Durkan and Pl Callaghan to contest the next Assembly election at a selection convention held in the city last month and many party members locally expected that she would replace the former party leader in the Assembly.

However, Mr Callaghan, an aide to Mr Durkan, was expected to be chosen for co-option at last night's event and was the only candidate who allowed his name to go forward for the post.

Colr. Quigley said she made her decision following "frank and confidential" discussions with the SDLP leadership over the last week.

"I now confirm that I will not contest next May's Assembly elections, nor will I seek re-election to Derry City Council," she said.

"Since entering politics I have always been guided by the principles of fairness, justice and equality and I remain true to those principles.

"It has been a great honour for me to serve the people of Derry as a Councillor and as Mayor.

"My life as a public representative has been both enriching and rewarding and I remain committed to the city and to the people," she said.

It is understood that Colr. Quigley is currently on holiday and was not expected to attend last night's meeting.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan said he regretted Colr. Quigley's decision. "It is a matter of deep regret that Helen has now chosen neither to go forward for co-option in the current contest or as a candidate next year. Her decision represents a significant loss to civic and party life.

"I know from recent conversations how clearly and strongly she feels about the decision she has come to," he said.