Belfast Telegraph

Political parties 'self-interested'

A former SDLP councillor is to run as an independent in the Assembly election after accusing established parties of self-interest.

Eugene McMenamin stood down from the party in West Tyrone, saying that some elected members were forced to follow party lines.

Mr McMenamin last stood for the Assembly for the SDLP in 2007. This time the party`s Joe Byrne will stand for election in West Tyrone.

Mr McMenamin said: "I feel that some constituencies, including West Tyrone, have often not reaped the full benefits available from the Assembly because of self-interest among the political parties.

"You still hear it today, when many of the parties are more interested in numbers rather than actually representing the people who have elected them.

"I feel that there is a real need for the people of Omagh and Strabane districts to have an established and experienced voice in the Assembly who has the ability to operate in an independent way and not to be paralysed in any way by internal interests within any political party."

He said he had spoken to many in and around Omagh and Strabane who believe their voices had not been fully heard at the Assembly.

"I also know from experience that many elected members, whilst having the best interests of the people in mind, have been forced to follow party lines, which has crippled them in their ability to represent fully the people who elected them."

In 2007 Sinn Fein won three seats in West Tyrone, the DUP two, as did independent Omagh hospital candidate Kieran Deeny. Dr Deeny, who won his seat in 2003 when Mr Byrne missed out, is not standing this year. Paddy Magowan is also standing in the constituency as an independent.

An SDLP spokesman said the party accepted the resignation of Mr McMenamin. Jo Deehan, the defeated candidate in the SDLP's internal selection convention, was the only other person apart from Mr Byrne to put her name forward for the candidacy.

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