SDLP row after outgoing MLA overlooked for ‘retired’ John Dallat

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A bitter row has developed for the SDLP in East Londonderry after outgoing MLA Gerry Mullan was not chosen to run for the party in the upcoming election.

The former MLA John Dallat - who retired last year - was chosen as the party’s only candidate in East Londonderry at the weekend. It’s understood he put his name forward along with outgoing MLA Mr Mullan and Causeway Coast & Glens councillor Roisin Loftus.

The SDLP's Gerry Mullan

The SDLP's Gerry Mullan

Mr Mullan told the Derry Journal he is “bitterly disappointed” at the development, and said: “I feel badly let down by the party.”

Mr Mullan added: “I am seeking legal advice and will be making no further comment.”

The Derry Journal asked Mr Dallat, who retired last year with a package understood to be up to £48,000 if the development was a sign of difficulties within the SDLP in East Londonderry.

“If there are difficulties, I’m not aware of them,” said Mr Dallat.

The former deputy Stormont Speaker said his decision to come out of retirement was not taken lightly.

Speaking after the selection, Mr Dallat said: “After a lifetime of public service, I left politics with a heart full of hope for what could be achieved through mutual respect, partnership and accommodation. Like the rest of the public, I have been disgusted by what I’ve seen happen to our political institutions. The greed and corruption which has occupied the foundations of this government must be rooted out. That’s why I refuse to stand by, to sit back, to say my job is done. In seven months, this government has bulldozed what it took us several decades to build. Enough is enough.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood referred to Mr Dallat’s “authority and his integrity” which he described “unimpeachable”.

“Those are the qualities needed now in politics. I’m delighted he’ll be contesting the election,” said Mr Eastwood, who thanked Gerry Mullan “for his service as a public representative”.

When Mr Dallat was asked if he would return his retirement package if he is re-elected, he said he’d asked the party’s general secretary to look at the issue, stating “absolutely, if there are ways and means”.