Sinn Fein MLA Billy Leonard steps aside to write book

Image caption,
Billy Leonard said he would continue to remain active within Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein MLA Billy Leonard will not stand as a candidate in next May's assembly elections, the party has said.

A former Orangeman, RUC reservist and SDLP member, Mr Leonard became MLA for East Londonderry in January after the retirement of Francie Brolly.

Mr Leonard said: "The time commitment required to be an effective public representative is significant.

"At this stage in my life there are a number of other interests I wish to pursue, including writing a book."

He added: "It is simply not possible to pursue these interests and maintain my role as a public representative."

Mr Leonard said he had made the decision to step down following discussions with his family, but he would continue to remain active within the party.

A former Protestant lay preacher from Lurgan, Mr Leonard initially joined the SDLP before switching to Sinn Fein in 2004.

He became the first member of the party to sit on Coleraine Borough Council.

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