05/11/2010

Political Unease Prompts Defection

It's all change as a local unionist politician leaves behind her previous allegiances to take up new challenges and a republican MLA has quit frontline activity altogether.

Paula Bradshaw, (pictured here) an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) election candidate, has quit and joined the Alliance Party.

Meanwhile a man who surprised many from his previous background - as both an ex-policeman and as former Orangeman by becoming a Sinn Fein (SF) MLA - is now to leave the field of politics altogether.

Ms Bradshaw originally left the UUP a month ago after failing to secure a party nomination to run in next year's Assembly Election. This week she joined Justice Minister's David Ford's moderate, middle-of-the-road Alliance Party.

She said this was to enable her to serve all of the community and "not just certain sections of it".

Ms Bradshaw ran unsuccessfully in South Belfast in the General Election on the joint Unionist and Conservative ticket.

Her departure from the UUP again reduces the party's female representation in its higher positions.

The Ulster Unionist's only MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, quit the UUP over the now failed link with the Conservatives and then romped home in North Down as an independent.

The news comes at the same time as East Londonderry SF representative Billy Leonard said he would not be putting his name forward for next May's elections.

In a statement issued by Sinn Fein, Mr Leonard said: "After a period of discussion with my family I have taken the decision that I will not seek a nomination to run in the May Assembly or Council elections.

"The time commitment required to be an effective public representative is significant.

"At this stage in my life there are a number of other interests I wish to pursue including writing a book.

"It is simply not possible to pursue these interests and maintain my role as a public representative.

"I have informed the party of my decision in order to allow time for the appropriate selection procedures in East Derry to be completed well in advance of the elections."

On Ms Bradshaw, Alliance Leader David Ford said: "I am very pleased to welcome Paula into the Alliance Party. It's great that exciting politicians like her realise that Alliance is the only genuine party of a shared future.

"In recent times we have seen politicians from the SDLP joining us and now we have someone who was seen as a rising star in the Ulster Unionist Party coming to us. People are finding a strong and clear voice in Alliance and that bodes very well for the future."

New Alliance Party member Paula Bradshaw stated: "I am very excited about starting this new chapter with what has proved to be the only party truly committed to mainstream, non-sectarian politics in Northern Ireland.

"I would like to thank the many people who have offered me so much support over the past month or so. They persuaded me that, whatever I did, I must continue in politics, and to try to make politics work for people who currently feel excluded from it. When I sought a vehicle to do that, the Alliance Party was the natural place to turn.

"Over the past few years, thanks to the work of the likes of Naomi Long and Anna Lo, that perception has altered dramatically.

"Certainly people have come to me telling me that they are considering voting Alliance for the first time in the forthcoming elections as it is the only party whose representatives truly speak to them - and I found I could only agree with their reasoning.

"I look forward to joining David Ford and his team at this exciting time in the party's history, and to pursuing the type of politics which is about the people we are elected to serve - and which is about the whole of Northern Ireland, not just certain sections of it," she concluded.

At the same time, the SDLP has also been making changes with news that it has selected a candidate to replace Mark Durkan, who is due to stand down as MLA for Foyle.

Pól Callaghan will take the position of the outgoing Mr Durkan, in a move which the party says is in line with its policy of ending the dual mandate while Mark Durkan is to remain in his role as the Westminster Member of Parliament for Foyle.

(BMcC/GK)

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