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SDLP selects Cara Hunter as MLA for East Londonderry

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East Londonderry MLA Cara Hunter

East Londonderry MLA Cara Hunter

The late John Dallat

The late John Dallat

East Londonderry MLA Cara Hunter

The SDLP has selected Cara Hunter as MLA for East Londonderry following the passing of John Dallat.

Ms Hunter, who served as Deputy Mayor of Derry & Strabane District Council for the last year, will replace the long-standing Assembly member who died earlier this month after a period of illness.

She has served as a councillor for the Castlederg area since May 2019 and is the party's spokesperson on mental health.

Ms Hunter described her co-option into the Northern Ireland Assembly as an "immense honour" as she enters amid the coronavirus crisis and endeavours to build on the work of Mr Dallat in East Londonderry.

"It is an incredible honour to be selected to represent the people of East Derry and to follow in the footsteps of someone like John Dallat.

"John dedicated his life to public service and I know just how much he loved representing people here.

"I hope that I can continue that tradition of being a champion for everyone in East Derry.

"This is an incredibly difficult time for people, businesses and communities here.

"The impact of the coronavirus has been immense, it has caused pain for us all and it has underscored how little the things that divide us actually matter.

"This virus doesn't see a difference between people in Coleraine or Kilrea, and neither should we. We all have to unite and come together as one community to keep each other safe."

The appointment comes just months after Ms Hunter spoke out against the tirade of sexual and misogynistic abuse she had been receiving online.

The new MLA called for policies to afford greater protection for females in politics after she was targeted in a string of incidents since her campaign for election to council.

Speaking of her new role, Ms Hunter continued: "I am passionate about the power of politics to change people's lives. Whether it's changing how we talk about and deliver mental health services, or how we fight the climate crisis in a way that supports jobs and creates a healthier society.

"And, of course, how we stimulate new investment in skills and jobs for people in East Derry to provide everyone with the opportunity to succeed.

"It is an immense honour to represent people in East Derry. I won't let them down."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood welcomed the appointment.

He said: "I'm delighted that Cara Hunter will be the new MLA for East Derry, building on the lifetime of dedicated service John Dallat gave to people here.

"Cara is a part of the new generation of SDLP activists stepping up to make a difference in their communities and we're excited to see the change she can help inspire as a member of the Assembly."

Belfast Telegraph