Lady Sylvia Hermon will not contest the North Down seat in next month’s general election, it has been confirmed.
In a statement, the former UUP and then independent MP, said she had taken the decision “with enormous sadness.”
“Serving as an MP is a tremendous privilege, and I remain profoundly grateful to all those who placed their trust and confidence in me in the last five general elections,” she said.
“It has undoubtedly been the greatest honour of my life to serve the people of North Down as their Member of Parliament since 2001, and so it is with enormous sadness that I have decided not to contest the next general election in December.
“This has been a particularly difficult decision but, after much thought, I have concluded that it is the right decision for my family and for me at this time.
“During my 18 years as an MP, I have tried hard to balance public and family responsibilities. I owe my family a huge debt of gratitude for allowing me, without ever a word of reproach, to spend so much time at Westminster; they understood how much joy and satisfaction I had from working on behalf of others.
“Now, however, my priorities for the next few years are to spend my time at home in Northern Ireland to see more of my family and to step back from the frontline of public life.”
She added: “I should like to thank the many constituents and others from across Northern Ireland who have contacted me directly to offer their support and encouragement to stand again for re-election. All such messages are deeply appreciated, and I apologise most sincerely for any disappointment caused by my decision not to stand.
“To all those volunteers who have given so generously of their time to help me in previous Westminster elections, I should also like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the streets walked and leaflets delivered. They made canvassing fun, despite the rain and wind we often had to endure.
“Last, but certainly not least, I wish to thank the wonderful staff who have worked alongside me since I was first elected. Their loyalty, friendship and hard work lightened my load, and definitely sustained me through those years.
“If my successor enjoys the role of MP for North Down half as much as I have done, a smile will constantly be on his or her face.”
Lady Hermon said she would be making no further statement.