Northern Ireland

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell to give up assembly seat this summer

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Dr McDonnell said he had "conflicting emotions" surrounding his decision to stand down from the assembly

The SDLP leader and South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell is to give up his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly this summer.

His party will hold a convention on 25 June to decide who will be co-opted to his South Belfast assembly seat.

Dr McDonnell, 65, said he had "many conflicting emotions" surrounding the decision to stand down.

He has faced criticism since saying he would leave the assembly but continue to lead the party from Westminster.

Party grandees including Brid Rodgers and Seamus Mallon, and Foyle MP Mark Durkan said he should give up the leadership.

Despite the speculation about his leadership of the party, Dr McDonnell said he looked forward to "taking us into the assembly elections next year".

Announcing that he would leave Stormont this summer, Dr McDonnell said: "I made the decision to stand down from the assembly to continue to represent South Belfast at Westminster.

Onslaught

"The people of South Belfast said they wanted me to take their cause to the floor of Parliament and I gladly accept that responsibility.

"It is now more critical than ever before that I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow SDLP MPs to resist the onslaught of the Tory government."

Dr McDonnell has been an MLA since 1998 and an MP since 2005.

He said he was moving now to enable the SDLP to work towards the 2016 assembly elections.

In May, Dr McDonnell retained his Westminster seat in South Belfast with 9,560 votes.

In 2014, the Northern Ireland Office passed an act banning MPs from double-jobbing.

The section of the law banning double-jobbing comes into force "the first day after this act is passed on which the Northern Ireland Assembly is dissolved".

Barring an early election, the next Stormont dissolution should be in March 2016, ahead of assembly elections in May 2016.

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