Suspended SDLP councillors quit party

Belfast councillors Kate Mullan, Pat Convery and Declan Boyle

THREE councillors suspended from the SDLP for not supporting a motion condemning harassment of women by anti-abortion activists have quit the party.

Declan Boyle, Pat Convery and Kate Mullan had the party whip withdrawn in April after abstaining on the vote at Belfast City Council.

All other councillors at the meeting had voted in favour of the motion, which said that people "should not face fear and intimidation when accessing healthcare services".

The SDLP had instructed its councillors to support the motion, but the trio said that while they oppose harassment and intimidation, they abstained "as the SDLP are a pro-life party".

Their resignations reduce the SDLP's number of Belfast councillors to four.

Mr Convery, a former city lord mayor, said "moral issues should be matters of personal conscience and party policy should reflect that".

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "The party I joined was one of inclusiveness and I feel that no longer applies."

Mr Boyle said they have been "treated very shabbily", claiming their request for a meeting with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood had not been granted.

Ms Mullan said: "It's now two-and-a-half months since we were suspended and we can't carry on in limbo any more."

The three councillors said they will continue to sit on the council as independents and had "no current plans" to join another party.

An SDLP spokesman said: "The party process has been followed to deal with the matter. The councillors decided not to participate in that process. We thank them for their service."

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