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Departing MLAs Douglas and Ross have final word

By Noel McAdam

Two DUP Assembly members have announced that they will not be standing in the next Stormont election.

East Belfast MLA Sammy Douglas and East Antrim MLA Alastair Ross have said they will not seek re-election in the March 2 poll.

As he bowed out yesterday Mr Douglas launched a strong attack in Stormont on the courts and Public Prosecution Service.

In his final speech in the Chamber, he said: "The Assembly should be tough on crime and also tough on the reasons behind crime."

Arguing that the criminal justice system is being undermined, he added: "The courts are too lenient and even the PPS is too lenient."

Announcing his decision to quit, Mr Douglas also said he believed that Assembly staff should get more credit - and thanked cleaners, canteen and security workers,

"I would like to see, in the future, a debate on how good the staff across the Assembly are. They do not get the recognition that they deserve," he said.

Mr Douglas turned to politics after 25 years of experience working with a wide range of community, voluntary and church groups in east Belfast.

He was a founding member of the East Belfast Interface Group, which worked to address community conflict and encourage dialogue between unionists and nationalists living in interface areas.

He was first elected to the Assembly in 2011 and again last May, serving most recently as a member of the committee monitoring Justice Minister Claire Sugden's department.

He had also sat on the board of East Belfast Partnership and worked with East Belfast Community Development Agency.

Mr Douglas was also appointed as a member of former Liberal Party leader Paddy Ashdown's Strategic Review of Parading and the board of the £20m urban regeneration project Skainos.

Mr Ross said that he took a decision when he was elected in May 2016 that it would be his final election. "The past 10 years has had its challenges, but there is no doubt that devolution is important for Northern Ireland and that having local representatives taking decisions is immeasurably better than direct rule," he said.

"It is therefore deeply frustrating that Sinn Fein has decided to collapse the institutions and force an early election exactly at a time when we should be focussing on issues such as RHI, hospital waiting lists, leaving the European Union, getting a sustainable budget in place and growing the economy."   

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