Northern Ireland Greens to elect new female deputy as Bailey quits
The Green Party is set to elect a new female deputy leader after the shock resignation of South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey.
Party rules state that the leadership must be gender balanced so only women candidates are eligible to stand in the contest.
The Greens have two female councillors in Northern Ireland - Rachel Woods who sits on Ards and North Down Borough Council and Georgina Milne who represents east Belfast - but the party may well opt for an unelected candidate. Ms Bailey herself was neither a councillor nor MLA when she was elected as deputy leader in 2014.
The new deputy leader will be chosen by party members at the Greens' annual conference in Belfast on October 1.
Party leader Steven Agnew denied speculation that Ms Bailey's surprise resignation indicated a split in the ranks. The South Belfast MLA said she wanted to focus on constituency work and would remain a Green member. Mr Agnew told the Belfast Telegraph: "Clare stepping aside is no shock to me or to senior party members. We knew she wanted to concentrate on work in south Belfast. Relations between us are genuinely good."
He said the Greens were in a strong position to pick a new deputy leader. "Other parties have more seats than talent. We have more talent than seats," he added.
Mr Agnew thanked Ms Bailey "for her support as Green Party deputy leader". He added: "She will continue to be an inspiration to us as she focuses on her role as Green MLA for South Belfast."
Announcing her resignation as deputy leader, Ms Bailey said: "The time is right for me to step down and allow another person to develop the role of deputy leader. It's also right that another person gets the opportunity to develop themselves through the role.
"I am a busy South Belfast MLA and will put all of my efforts and energy into doing my very best for the people of the area."