SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey to quit politics on health grounds
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey is stepping down from politics for health reasons.
Mr Ramsey, 57, has served as an elected representative for 31 years. He will step down from the Assembly on December 31st.
The Foyle assembly member served as city councillor for 18 years and was elected Mayor of Derry in 1999.
He first won his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2003, where he was returned for three terms. He will also resign as SDLP Chief Whip.
He said: "I have been honoured to serve the community for over three decades, so it is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement. It has been a difficult decision but I must put my health first. I owe that to my family who have supported me through the best and tests of my career.
"I have been incredibly proud to serve the people of this city on Derry City Council, as councillor and then as Mayor and since 2003 as their Assembly Member. I had the great honour while Mayor of conferring the Freedom of the City on John Hume. He was my motivation in joining the SDLP and in becoming an elected member.
"It should go without saying that I wish the party every success going forward. I know Colum has the political direction and drive we need, and I give him my full support without reservation. I think the party is in great shape under the new leadership.
"My political philosophy was always simply to help people; I strived to improve the quality of life for my neighbours, my city, and my constituents. I've been a passionate champion for the rights of disabled people, advocating for those disabled, their families and carers and it is not a duty I give up lightly.
"I have met so many wonderful people thanks to my political career and am deeply grateful to the people of Derry. They have rightly earned the reputation of being caring and supportive, fiercely protective of their city and always working to make Derry all it can be.”
The Bogside-born politician was a tireless campaigner on prisoner rights issues and described those as "among the most challenging of my career."
"I wish to say thank you to all those who placed their faith in me. I've always been humbled and honoured to represent Derry but of course I did not do it alone. Those staff who served in my constituency office played a vital role in my work.”
Mr Ramsey is a leading member of the Cursillo movement and organiser of the annual Walk To Knock pilgrimage. He will continue to donate his energies to those organisations.
"My wish now is to spend my time with my family, I owe them, my wife Chris especially, a debt of gratitude. They have been by my side every step of this at times difficult, but ultimately rewarding journey; for that, I could never thank them enough."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has paid tribute to Mr Ramsey's work.
Mr Eastwood said: "Pat Ramsey represents everything that is good and decent about local politics. Over 30 years in politics and 20 more in community work, Pat has demonstrated himself to be an honest and dedicated public representative.
"Pat’s enormous work for people with disabilities, his efforts to improve life for those with diabetes and his unflinching dedication to helping the most vulnerable has made an indelible impact on the lives of so many. His legacy will live long in the memory of those he has helped in Derry an across the North.
"As the SDLP’s parliamentary group whip, Pat has been at the heart of our business in the Assembly. Always firm but fair, his contribution has been immeasurable and will be deeply missed.
"I have no doubt Pat will continue to make a significant contribution to the lives of people in Derry. It’s the mark of him as a politician and a person that he cares deeply about our city. He will remain a friend of the SDLP and we all wish him well in the time ahead.”