Northern Ireland

SDLP door remains open for suspended MLA Justin McNulty, says Colum Eastwood

Mr McNulty was suspended from the party after leaving Saturday’s assembly sitting early.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty.
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has been suspended

The door of the SDLP remains open to MLA Justin McNulty who was suspended, leader Colum Eastwood has said.

Mr McNulty attended the historic sitting of the Stormont assembly on Saturday, which saw Michelle O’Neill become the first nationalist first minister to serve alongside deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly.

However, he left Parliament Buildings before the end of the sitting and missed his party colleague Matthew O’Toole being confirmed as leader of the opposition.

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh and Laois GAA manager

Mr McNulty left early to attend a match in Co Wicklow of Laois GAA team, which he manages.

Mr McNulty was appointed Laois manager last October at a time when the assembly remained effectively collapsed.

Mr Eastwood has said the two positions are “not compatible”.

Speaking at Parliament Buildings on Monday, Mr Eastwood said an internal party disciplinary procedure will “have to be gone through”.

He told the media: “I expect 100% from all my MLAs, I won’t accept 50% from one of them but we’re very clear the door is open for Justin to come back in if he wants, we’ve made a very generous offer to him but that’s on him and we’re ready and willing to listen.”

Pressed on what the offer consisted of, Mr Eastwood responded: “That’s a conversation we have internally and we’ll continue to have that conversation if Justin is up for it.

“I can’t make people do things they don’t want to do but all I can say is this, the SDLP is very clear, being an MLA in this place, particularly now the assembly is back up and running, is a full-time job, and I don’t think our constituents would expect anything less.

“As I’ve said from the very beginning of this process, the two positions aren’t compatible.”