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Former SDLP member to stand for Assembly

A former SDLP member could hamper the party’s hopes of reclaiming an Assembly seat in West Tyrone after confirming his intention to run in the May 5 poll.

Patrick McGowan, who was a member of the SDLP until 12 years ago, announced yesterday that he would be standing as an independent candidate.

He is aiming to sweep up votes from Dr Kieran Deeny, who confirmed this week that he would be stepping down from the Assembly to concentrate on his work as a doctor.

Mr McGowan’s decision to stand may be a setback to his former party, which is aiming to recapture the seat it lost through a split vote in 2007.

The retired firefighter insisted he would give people an independent voice.

“My association with the SDLP was a long time ago,” he said.

“People know me for who I am and I have done a lot of work in the community. With Dr Deeny stepping down, there is room for an independent voice.”

Mr Deeny, who has served in the Assembly since 2003, said he would continue to fight for better health provision despite stepping back from frontline politics.

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