Politics

North Belfast councillor Paul McCusker quits SDLP to run as an independent in May's council election

Councillor Paul McCusker has quit the SDLP and will run as an independent in May's council election. Picture by Mal McCann
Councillor Paul McCusker has quit the SDLP and will run as an independent in May's council election. Picture by Mal McCann

THE SDLP has been dealt a blow just weeks out from the local government elections with the resignation of north Belfast councillor Paul McCusker.

The former deputy lord mayor will run as an independent in May 18's poll.

The founder of the St Patrick's Soup Kitchen and the People's Kitchen food bank, as well as a campaigner against homelessness, social deprivation and addiction, Mr McCusker said he had become "frustrated and disheartened with politics at a central and local level".

He said there had been a "lack of progress on issues that I am very passionate about".

There has been speculation about Mr McCusker's role in the SDLP for some time. He was absent from the party's conference in Derry last weekend.

"Issues such as addiction, homelessness and poverty continue to impact on the lives of individuals and families who I support and I will continue to highlight and lobby on behalf of those who experience these issues if elected in May," he said in a statement.

"We have continued to see year on year very little focus on the important issues that I highlight resulting in more deaths, lack of suitable services and people plunged into despair and misery, it is very difficult to sit back and watch this not get the political attention it deserves."

He said the past year had been personally challenging and that he had concluded: "I would be best placed to run as an independent in the upcoming council election".

"Continuing as an independent will allow me to give a voice to those who often feel forgotten and continue to fight for better services," he said.

"I hope I will get the support and be reelected in May as an independent in the Oldpark DEA (district electoral area)."

A statement from the SDLP said the party was disappointed too see Mr McCusker "stepping away".

"It's been a tough time for him but we've really enjoyed working with Paul and he'll continue to have friends in the SDLP who wish him well in the future," the party said.

"The SDLP will be making an announcement about additional Belfast City Council candidates shortly."