Bid to become MLA by banned councillor with criminal history

Councillor Patrick Clarke appearing at Downpatrick Courthouse in 2015
Councillor Patrick Clarke appearing at Downpatrick Courthouse in 2015

A politician who is barred from being a councillor following a number of criminal convictions is now attempting to become an MLA.

Patrick Clarke, formerly a councillor in Newry Mourne and Down, left the Alliance Party in February 2015, with the Down Recorder stating he had explained his decision on “health grounds”.

Later that year, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault, criminal damage, swindling nearly £2,000 from a community group, and of possession of an offensive weapon.

He got suspended jail sentences, probation, and a small fine.

On October 15 last year it was reported that he had stepped down from the council.

Then on October 20 it was reported that the council said his resignation had only been made verbally, and that he had withdrawn it.

The same day the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards banned him – with immediate effect – from being a councillor for three years, finding that he had brought his office into “disrepute”, and had shown little “insight” into his behaviour.

On Tuesday the Castlewellan man issued a four-page statement listing his policies, and drawing to a conclusion by acknowledging “judgments of error”.

He will stand as MLA for South Down as an independent.