A former Alliance Party MLA has expressed disappointment after it was confirmed that he is not permitted to stand in the local government elections in May.
Kieran McCarthy had been hoping to make a political comeback at the age of 76, having set his sights on winning a seat on Ards and North Down Borough Council with the aim of tackling a number of key environmental issues in his local area.
But the Kircubbin man’s hopes of representing the ratepayers of the Ards Peninsula DEA have been dashed after he was informed that his decision to take a severance payment when he quit his role on Ards Borough Council in 2013 prevents him from contesting future elections.
Having let his Alliance membership lapse, he had been planning to stand as an independent candidate.
After receiving confirmation from the Department for Communities that he cannot stand for election in May, Mr McCarthy said: “It is disappointing bearing in mind that I did not seek to leave the council at the time (2013). It was simply a new rule brought in where so-called double jobbing was no longer permissible – that is you could not be a local councillor and an MLA at the same time – and therefore I had to leave the council.
“It seems rather unfair that a person who served their community faithfully for 28 years through his local council and who always had great support from his constituents at every election and after a break of six years finds himself disqualified through no fault of his own while at the same time other people who have for one reason or another brought themselves and their council into disrepute can be accepted as a candidate for the election.”
Mr McCarthy, a former Alliance Party chief whip, served on Ards Borough Council for 28 years and was a Strangford MLA from 1998 until his retirement in 2016.
He has vowed to work to ensure that newly elected councillors campaign on key environmental issues across the borough, especially in the Ards Peninsula area.
Speaking to the News Letter, Northern Ireland’s chief electoral officer Virginia McVea said she couldn’t comment on Mr McCarthy’s case specifically.
“It is my understanding that if somebody took that severance they are prevented from standing again going forwards, but it is for each candidate to present themselves as qualified,” she said.