Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

SDLP veteran denies McKinney claims

Former UTV broadcaster Fearghal McKinney could become a member of the Assembly before the next election, it has been claimed
Former UTV broadcaster Fearghal McKinney could become a member of the Assembly before the next election, it has been claimed

Former UTV broadcaster Fearghal McKinney could become a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly before the next election, it has been claimed.

Senior SDLP figures are keen to see him on their Stormont team and it is understood the options under discussion include a sitting Assembly member stepping down to allow Mr McKinney to take the seat.

He was appointed SDLP vice chairman following his failed bid to seize the Fermanagh/South Tyrone Westminster seat for the party last year.

But newly re-elected South Belfast MLA Alasdair McDonnell, who is also the area's MP, has denied the claims he may eventually leave the Assembly to provide an SDLP opening.

If a sitting Assembly member steps down, their party can co-opt a candidate into the seat.

But Dr McDonnell said: "I fought the election to deliver a service for the people of South Belfast and I intend doing that for the foreseeable future.

"I have no plans at the minute to change anything. I fought the election and intend to honour the confidence that has been placed in me."

The SDLP veteran has rejected criticism of his holding two political posts at the same time, arguing there is a considerable overlap between his MP and MLA roles.

But the continued public pressure over 'double-jobbing' is a concern for political parties.

Mr McKinney was beaten to the Fermanagh/South Tyrone Westminster seat by Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew.

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