Sinn Fein MLAs Megan Fearon and Mairtin O Muilleoir quit Assembly
Sinn Fein MLAs Megan Fearon and Mairtin O Muilleoir have announced they are quitting the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Both were former ministers in the last Executive.
Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill paid tribute to both. She said they had worked "tirelessly to deliver for citizens and to build a new, just and united Ireland".
"They both will remain republican activists and advocates for equality, justice and liberty," she said.
Mairtin O Muilleoir has been one of the party's most senior members. He was a former Lord Mayor of Belfast before becoming South Belfast MLA. He was the last finance minister Stormont had before its collapse and set up the RHI Inquiry as one of his final acts in the post.
Mr O Muilleoir had previously served on Belfast City Council for a decade up until 1997 before quitting politics to concentrate on his newspaper business.
The fluent Irish speaker wrote a book, The Dome of Delight, documenting his experiences as a Belfast councillor during the tense 1980s when there were fist fights and bitter exchanges between unionist and nationalist representatives.
He returned to politics in 2011 and became Belfast Lord Mayor in 2013. In 2014, he was co-opted onto the Assembly as MLA.
"It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent the people of south and west Belfast for Sinn Fein in both City Hall and Stormont," he said.
"But it is now time for me to hand over to a representative of a newer generation of republican activists.
"I want to thank all of those who have given me their support and assure them that I will remain a determined advocate of a better Belfast and a new and united Ireland."
Following the General Election results last week which saw the DUP's Carla Lockhart, the SDLP's Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna and Alliance's Stephen Farry win seats in the Commons, there are now six free seats in the Assembly. The parties are expected to begin the co-option process later in the week.
Ousted South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly was asked on BBC's Talkback Radio Ulster programme if she was going to be replacing Ms Lockhart as Upper Bann MLA - as has been reported. She dodged the question saying she was looking forward to recovering from her election campaign.
Megan Fearon said her time in electoral politics had come to an end and it was time for a new challenge. She has represented Newry and Armagh for the past seven years.
The 28-year-old she was the youngest person ever to enter the Assembly. Prior she studied politics, philosophy and economics at Queen’s University Belfast.
She served as junior minister to Martin McGuinness in The Executive Office and was a member of the Finance, Economy and OFMDFM Committees as well as the All Party Group for Children and Young People and was Vice Chair of the All Party Group on Women, Peace and Security.
She was the party spokeswoman on equality and social justice.
“Representing Sinn Fein and the people of South Armagh has been an honour and one that I never took lightly," she said.
“I want to thank every single activist and voter for their support and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of the Sinn Fein team, both locally and nationally both as an MLA and on the Executive. I want to wish my colleagues well in the future and thank them for their friendship.
“Over the years this role has allowed me to meet the most inspiring people, make friends for life and have many unforgettable experiences.
“Working towards a new Ireland based on fairness and equality is a huge part of who I am. I will always be an activist, but my time in electoral politics has ended.
“I am excited to begin a new chapter in life and I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey."
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald thanked both for their work and service for the party.
"Both were excellent MLAs providing first class representation in their constituencies and also on the Executive where both served with distinction as ministers," she said.
"I have known both for many years and they are hardworking and dedicated representatives, committed to improving the quality of life for all.
“I wish both of them well in the future and I’m confident they will continue working to build a new and united Ireland.
“I’m sure whoever is selected to replace them will provide the same high standard of representation for the people they represent.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital