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Tributes as Eamonn McCann quits Derry council on health grounds

Neurological condition sees veteran resign in Derry and Strabane


Decision: Eamonn McCann has also served as an MLA

Decision: Eamonn McCann has also served as an MLA

Decision: Eamonn McCann has also served as an MLA

Warm tributes have been paid to veteran civil rights leader Eamonn McCann, who is resigning as a Derry City and Strabane councillor on health grounds.

The People Before Profit representative said he had developed the neurological condition ataxia after being diagnosed with epilepsy 15 years ago.

The 77-year-old had been an MLA in the previous Assembly before losing his seat in 2017, but he had spoken last year of standing again for Stormont.

However, in a statement last night he said that while he had not found his epilepsy diagnosis inhibited his work as a councillor, his neurological condition had made it "increasingly difficult" to meet his duties towards his constituents.

"I have made my intention known to my party, People Before Profit, and have asked the party to set in motion the procedure for selecting a new councillor," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP said: "I don't know how many platforms I've stood on with Eamonn McCann.

"We haven't always agreed but I've always been in awe of his dogged determination.

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"As a student he stood up and helped bring down a corrupt, sectarian government. He's been standing up against injustice ever since."

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken tweeted: "Really sorry to hear this news. I wish Eamonn all the best for the future and, while I doubt he'll be taking it easy, we all hope he'll continue to be the strong advocate he is for a long time to come."

Derry and Strabane Aontu councillor Emmet Doyle said: "Eamonn McCann is someone who commands respect in this city. He is without doubt Derry's most powerful orator.

"Despite the fact that we disagree on many things, I'm sorry to see him go. Eamonn has never changed his spots, and that's not something you could say about most." People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said: "It is very sad news for Eamonn and the party.

"He is a great fighter and a great activist and we wish him well.

"We know that Eamonn won't be quitting and will continue to be involved in activism in many guises."

The former civil rights leader stood unsuccessfully in many elections until March 2016, when he finally got into Stormont at the age of 73.

However, he lost his seat the following year in the snap poll called after the Assembly collapsed over the cash-for-ash scandal. In his nine months in the chamber he inhabited the "naughty corner" with TUV leader Jim Allister.

Mr McCann said it had been "a privilege to represent the Moor DEA (District Electoral Area), where I was born and reared".

He added: "I have confidence that PBP will nominate a diligent and efficient councillor in my place and that she or he, alongside Shaun Harkin, will continue to serve the interests of the people of the Moor and contribute to the struggle against oppression and against capitalism, the never-ending source of all our political ills."

Along with Bernadette Devlin, Mr McCann was one of the left-wing leaders of the civil rights movement. The former Belfast Telegraph columnist has campaigned tirelessly for the Bloody Sunday families, and on a range of international issues, including the plight of the Palestinians.

Belfast Telegraph

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