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Third SDLP councillor quits over West Tyrone candidate row

Joanne Donnelly said she was quitting the SDLP in support of her colleagues who resigned last week
 

FOR the second time in a week a high-profile SDLP event has been overshadowed by party resignations in West Tyrone.

On Monday, Omagh councillor Joanne Donnelly became the third SDLP councillor to quit in a long-running row over the choice of assembly election candidate.

The SDLP has seen its representation on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council cut from five to two within a matter of days.

Last week fellow councillors Josephine Deehan and Patsy Kelly announced that they were quitting the party and would be standing in next month's election as independent social democrats.

The announcement came as party leader Colum Eastwood addressed a party event in west Belfast last Tuesday.

The pair are unhappy with Daniel McCrossan's selection as SDLP West Tyrone candidate. The 27-year-old law graduate was selected unopposed in December and subsequently co-opted to the assembly to replace Joe Byrne.

Ms Donnelly said on Monday that she was quitting in support of her colleagues.

"It's not a decision I took lightly but I could not stand by after my colleagues took what I believe was the right decision," she said.

"There are a number of issues which have festered for more than a decade and I have tried actively to resolve them but to no avail."

Ms Donnelly said she was disappointed that new SDLP leader Colum Eastwood did not intervene to ease tensions in the constituency, where dozens of party activists are understood to be disaffected.

However, the Foyle MLA defended the party's decision on Monday to select Mr McCrossan as the sole West Tyrone candidate.

"I don't make decisions because they're easy but because they're right – we're running one candidate because we can get one candidate elected," Mr Eastwood told The Irish News.

"One person put their name forward. I can't impose candidates who don't put their name forward."

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