Political news

Ex-mayor Pat Convery who quit SDLP in abortion row 'undecided' on seeking re-election

Independent councillors Kate Mullan, Pat Convery and Declan Boyle
Brendan Hughes

A former Belfast lord mayor who quit the SDLP in a row over an abortion vote says he has not yet decided whether to seek council re-election.

Pat Convery resigned alongside Declan Boyle and Kate Mullan shortly after the party suspended them for abstaining on a motion condemning harassment of women by anti-abortion activists.

All other councillors at the meeting voted in favour of the motion in 2017, which said 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 because the SDLP is a "pro-life party".

They have since remained on Belfast council as independents, reducing the SDLP's number of councillors in the city to four.

Ahead of May's council elections, Mr Boyle has been putting up his own posters in the Botanic area to seek re-election as an independent.

Mr Convery, a Castle area representative, said he was still undecided on whether he also intends to run for another council term.

"I haven't made my mind up yet. I will make my mind up before the deadline," he said.

Ms Mullan, who represents the Lisnasharragh area, did not respond to requests for a comment.

The SDLP is running Gary McKeown in Botanic, Heather Wilson and Carl Whyte in Castle, and Séamas de Faoite in Lisnasharragh.

Abortion is currently only permitted in Northern Ireland if the mother's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Last year the SDLP changed its policy to give members a free vote on abortion, but the party maintains its 'pro-life' stance.

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