Belfast Telegraph

Claire Hanna resigns SDLP whip over Fianna Fáil move - Eastwood says 'the party has spoken'

Colum Eastwood with party colleague Claire Hanna at Stormont
Colum Eastwood with party colleague Claire Hanna at Stormont
SDLP's Claire Hanna MLA
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna has resigned the SDLP whip following the party's link up with Fianna Fáil.

She has also resigned as the SDLP's Brexit spokesperson but said she will continue to be a member of the party and as an MLA representing constituents in south Belfast.

The move comes after the SDLP members voted in favour of forming a partnership with Fianna Fáil.

The motion passed by 121 votes to 53 at a special party conference in Newry on Saturday.

Ms Hanna had opposed the partnership.

Ms Hanna said: "Following the conference on Saturday, I have thought long and hard about the outcome and implications.

"I remain unconvinced that an exclusive partnership with Fianna Fáil is the right vehicle with which to deliver the non-sectarian, transparent and social democratic new Ireland I believe in.

"As such, after a discussion with Colum Eastwood, I have resigned from my position as SDLP Brexit spokesperson. This hasn't been an easy decision. I remain an SDLP member and MLA, and will be continuing to work hard for the people of south Belfast and alongside SDLP members and activists, with whom I still share political values and aspirations."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA said: "At the SDLP Special Conference all members were afforded the opportunity to speak and delegates to vote on two motions. The SDLP membership overwhelmingly voted for the party to embark on a partnership with Fianna Fáil.

"It is with regret that we accept Claire’s resignation. The party membership has democratically spoken and difficult though that decision may be for some, their wishes must be respected and enacted."

On Saturday, Mr Eastwood hailed the birth of a policy partnership he said would build for a better future in the years ahead.

Within 24 hours, the chairpersons of the SDLP's youth, women and LGBT+ wings said they were stepping down in an open letter that was sharply critical of how the decision was reached.

Matthew Corr (youth), Caoimhe McNeill (women) and Matthew Carson (LGBT+) wrote: "Calls for respect and party unity ring hollow when a coach and horses has been driven through the proper procedure which exists to facilitate a debate, on equal terms, and allow the party to come together after."

They claimed Saturday's conference was called without proper notice being given.

"Voting opened while the debate was ongoing, allowing people to vote before they had heard all points of view," the letter said.

"This was extremely discourteous to speakers of every side.

"There can be no reasonable debate when the terms of the debate are arbitrary and extra-constitutional."

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