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Three new co-opted MLAs are sworn in... just in time to head off on summer holiday

By Noel McAdam

Published 30/06/2015

SDLP Leader Alasdair McDonnell with Claire Hanna, who will replace him as the MLA for South Belfast
SDLP Leader Alasdair McDonnell with Claire Hanna, who will replace him as the MLA for South Belfast

Northern Ireland's three newest MLAs have signed on for work - just as the Assembly prepares to sign off for the summer.

Two Ulster Unionists and an SDLP Member were officially sworn in yesterday by Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin in a series of co-options.

The changes are the result of the general election in May and ongoing efforts to end double-jobbing, with SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell opting for the House of Commons rather than Stormont.

Claire Hanna is replacing Mr McDonnell as South Belfast MLA. He intends to continue leading the party from Westminster. Ms Hanna, daughter of former Executive Higher Education Minister Carmel Hanna, signed the Members Register in the Speaker's office yesterday followed by the new UUP Members.

Neil Somerville became an MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, replacing former UUP leader Tom Elliott, who took the Commons seat there from Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew during last month's general election.

And Adrian Cochrane-Watson became an MLA for South Antrim. He replaces Danny Kinahan, who defeated the DUP's Rev William McCrea to take the Westminster constituency seat.

The Speaker told MLAs he had received letters from Mr Kinahan and Mr Elliott about their resignations and had advised the Electoral Office about the new appointments.

"The Members have now taken their seats. I welcome them to the Assembly and wish them every success," he added.

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