SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell to stand down from NI Assembly in the summer
SDLP party leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell has announced he is to stand down from the Northern Ireland Assembly in the summer.
The announcement was made on Tuesday afternoon.
A selection convention which will determine the person to be co-opted into the seat will take place on June 25, 2015.
Dr McDonnell, who is also an MP for south Belfast, said there were "many conflicting emotions" surrounding his decision to stand down as MLA for south Belfast.
He said: " I have spent my entire career here first as a GP with my practice on the Ormeau Road and then as an elected representative. I have held that position with immense pride since 1998 and over the past seventeen years I have been able to provide help and assistance to thousands of people who have called on me. Many of them I would now consider friends.
“But for the past ten years I have also been their MP and after I was re-elected last month I made the decision to stand down from the Assembly to continue to represent South Belfast at Westminster. The people of South Belfast said they wanted me to take their cause to the floor of Parliament and I gladly accept that responsibility. It is now more critical than ever before that I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow SDLP MPs to resist the onslaught of the Tory government.
“We face billions of pounds in further austerity measures to be announced in the Chancellor’s Emergency Budget on July 8th as well as a challenge to our valuable relationship with Europe through the referendum. Together, in the Assembly and at Westminster, the SDLP will work to protect people in the north from the consequences of those moves.
“That is why I am moving now to allow the party to select the two candidates that will stand in south Belfast in the Assembly Elections in May 2016. The party has already set the process in motion and I look forward to welcoming the newest addition to the SDLP MLA team."
He added: “I am gratified to see a wealth of talent in the constituency and it reflects that development of the party right across the north, something I have given particular focus to during my leadership. I know whoever is co-opted into my seat will be an excellent representative to all the people in south Belfast.
“Indeed with development of our Prosperity Process underway, I firmly believe that the SDLP is the only party that is actively representing everyone right across the north. We believe it is only by working with the other parties for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland that we can make this place work, and we are determined to see that happen. As leader of the SDLP, I believe this is a particularly exciting stage for the party and I look forward to taking us into the Assembly elections next year."