Belfast Telegraph

UUP co-opt Andy Allen to replace Michael Copeland as East Belfast MLA

Andy Allen has been co-opted into the Assembly to replace Michael Copeland as East Belfast MLA.

Mr Copeland stepped down from his position due to ill-health.

Andy Allen lost both his legs and was partially blinded in a bomb blast in the notorious Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2008 when he was just 19.

He said it was a "huge honour and a privilege" to replace Mr Copeland.

He added: "I have served my country and want to continue to serve my community.

"I look forward to getting down to work as soon as possible because it's work on the ground that can make a difference. There may be doubts about the future of this Assembly, but while it's here, I'll be a dedicated public servant for the people of east Belfast.

"For too long, veterans in Northern Ireland have been ignored. I fully intend to use my position to highlight the needs of veterans and try and make sure that their needs are not sidelined. There's a lot of work ahead, but I'm looking forward to it.”

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UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said it was important to bring people "beyond the political bubble" into the political sphere.

"Andy ticks that box," he said.

“The Ulster Unionist Party believes the country must always come before party political interest.

"In Andy Allen we have a man who knows all too well about service and sacrifice for his country and I am delighted to say he has accepted my invitation to join us here at Stormont, succeeding Michael Copeland as MLA for East Belfast.

“Andy was born and bred in the east of the city and I have no doubt he will serve all the people of the constituency well.

"He will of course also promote the interests of members of the armed forces and their families, as well as disability issues – and on that point, I will be asking for a meeting with the Speaker’s Office because the chamber is not wheelchair friendly, and there is no easy way for a wheelchair using MLA to vote, as access to the lobbies involves negotiating steps.

“I again wish Michael Copeland a return to good health and wellbeing and assure him and his supporters that Andy Allen will offer a continuity of the compassion-based political representation Michael championed during his time at Stormont.”

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