‘No real reason’ why SDLP MLA did not state marriage

The newsletter article in question
The newsletter article in question

The SDLP says there was no particular reason why one of its politicians failed to mention that she is wedded to the man who is replacing her on Belfast City Council in a message to constituents.

An SDLP newsletter has recently been circulated to homes in the south of the city, where Claire Hanna is now an MLA, offering information about Donal Lyons – pictured next to her in this publicity shot (above).

Ms Hanna had won her council seat in 2014, and was then selected to step up to the role of MLA after a previous post-holder – party leader Alasdair McDonnell – stood aside from the Assembly to concentrate on his work as MP.

The newsletter gives a summary of new councillor Donal Lyons’ background, noting that he is married and has children.

Despite this, the newsletter neglects to point out that the person to whom he is married is the woman standing beside him.

Asked about this, an SDLP spokeswoman initially derided the query, saying she did not see why the question was being pursued.

The party later issued a statement in response to the News Letter’s enquiry. 

It read: “There was no specific reason that Claire Hanna did not mention her marriage in her recent newsletter.

“Claire was sharing her political concerns, views and updates regarding the SDLP with constituents in one of her first opportunities since being selected as south Belfast MLA.

“The fact she is married to Donal Lyons, while certainly something of personal joy for the pair, is not one of those.”

It also added some information about Mr Lyons himself, saying: “He has been a member of the SDLP for almost 10 years.

“He has been chair of the Balmoral branch, a party officer and sat on the Executive.

“Prior to this Donal was politically active in the Republic and worked for the leader of the Labour Party in Dublin.”

Dr McDonnell had been re-elected as an MP in May with a majority of roughly 900.

He announced on June 9 that he was to stand aside from his other job as an MLA, saying Northern Ireland faced further austerity from Westminster and a possible change in its relationship with the EU, and it was “now more critical than ever before that I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow SDLP MPs to resist the onslaught of the Tory government.”

Councillor Hanna (daughter of former SDLP MLA Carmel Hanna) was selected to replace him as MLA on June 25.