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John Dallat: SDLP politician will contest election

Former SDLP MLA John Dallat is to return to politics. Picture by Colm Lenaghan, Pacemaker

FORMER deputy speaker of the assembly, the SDLP's John Dallat, will return to politics just eight months after he retired.

The veteran politician had stood down at the last election but is now standing as an SDLP candidate in his old constituency of East Derry.

Mr Dallat, from Kilrea, Co Derry, said he had decided to return after becoming increasingly disillusioned by a string of scandals, including the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme and concerns about the actions of assembly speaker, the DUP's Robin Newton.

A former deputy chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Dallat had served as an MLA from 1998 until the May elections last year.

He said he had left politics "full of hope for what could be achieved through mutual respect, partnership and accommodation".

"Like the rest of the public, I have been disgusted by what I've seen happen to our political institutions," he said.

He added: "The greed and corruption which has occupied the foundations of this government must be rooted out. That's why I refuse to stand by, to sit back, to say my job is done. In seven months, this government has bulldozed what it took us several decades to build. Enough is enough."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was "delighted" Mr Dallat would contest the election.

"His authority and his integrity are unimpeachable. Those are the qualities needed now in politics," he said.

Mr Dallat's party colleague Gerry Mullan, who held an East Derry seat for the SDLP, will not stand in the snap election.

Mr Eastwood thanked him "for his service as a public representative over a long period of time".

Mr Dallat is not the first veteran SDLP politician to announce their return to frontline politics.

Former Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly, who lost her seat in May, will stand at the election.

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