Belfast Telegraph

Local Election 2019

SDLP's O'Loan to step down from 'cold house' council

Ballymena councillor Declan O’Loan who has revealed he will not contest his council seat in the May elections
Ballymena councillor Declan O’Loan who has revealed he will not contest his council seat in the May elections
Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

A veteran SDLP councillor who has served for 26 years has said he will not stand in the upcoming local government elections and denied the decision is related to his party's new partnership with Fianna Fail.

Former North Antrim MLA Declan O'Loan, who sits on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said he "will not be sad" to leave the local authority, which he described as "a cold house for nationalists".

The former head of maths at St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, and husband of former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan, said he made his decision to quit during the last council elections five years ago "and I have not altered that opinion at any time since".

"My decision is in no way related to the SDLP-Fianna Fail partnership, which on balance I support," he said.

"I have served 26 years as a councillor and I think that it is time to hand over to others.

"I am grateful to those who elected me on six occasions to council, to the local SDLP membership who assisted me, and party colleagues who sat along with me, in particular PJ McAvoy.

"It has been a privilege to work for the whole community, and to present the SDLP view in council debates."

Mr O'Loan said the SDLP had made an "immense" contribution to Irish history.

"I got involved in politics at a time when the Troubles were still at their height.

"I was inspired by the leadership of John Hume, and wanted to make a contribution to reconciliation in this deeply divided society," the Ballymena councillor said.

"The SDLP was the right vehicle to do this, and its contribution to Irish history has been immense, the Good Friday Agreement being its finest achievement."

However, he criticised the council, saying it had learned nothing from the collapse of Stormont.

"In many ways I will not be sad to leave Mid and East Antrim Borough Council," he said.

"It is very much a unionist dominated council, and it would have been easy for it to show some regard for the minority nationalist population.

"Decision after decision has created a cold house for nationalists, the council being seemingly oblivious to the fact that a split community will ultimately destroy its plans to improve the economy and social welfare of its area."

"The collapse of the Assembly has taught it nothing," Mr O'Loan added.

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