In a shock move Newry Town Cllr Kevin McAteer has left the SDLP to go independent.

Making his announcement last night the Newry, Mourne and Down Councillor said “I have decided to stand as an independent and stand up for what I believe in. Politics is about the people and not the political parties.” and on his Facebook Page he added “I will not be dragged into playing petty political games at the expense of the public, the people deserve better than that; they are more important than any political party”

Cllr Kevin McAteer
Cllr Kevin McAteer

The move now means that out of the 6 Newry Town Councillors Cllr Gary Stokes is now the only SDLP candidate left, along with 3 Sinn Fein and 2 Independents! Newry Mourne and Down Council that opened with a 50/50 balance of the Sinn Fein/ SDLP vote just this week now has a tally of 14 Sinn Fein and 13 SDLP with 4 Independents, 4 DUP, 3 UUP, 2 Alliance and 1 UKIP!

The SDLP in Newry have released a statement announcing their shock and  disappointment at Cllr McAteer’s decision.

 Hugh McShane, Chair of the party’s Newry branch said “Kevin is a young politician who has been fully supported and encouraged by the party in Newry. From the outset, SDLP members in Newry have worked tirelessly to facilitate Kevin’s entry to local politics and those within the party locally who loyally canvassed for Kevin are extremely disappointed that he has decided to go independent. He was elected on an SDLP ticket.

“Senior members of the party mentored Kevin and encouraged him every step of the way and they are disappointed that he has made this decision. The SDLP in Newry is like an extended family and the emphasis has always been on the personal welfare of all our members, in particular candidates who are seeking election for the first time.

“For us, being a party member is not just about political debate and activism it is about looking after people. At no point did Kevin share any concerns he had about the party locally with me.

“Unfortunately, as a result of his decision, those who took the trouble to come out in May and cast their votes for an SDLP candidate to represent them in Newry City are now deprived of an authentic SDLP voice in the new council. However, we as a party will continue to fight for the needs of the people of Newry. ”

Looking to the forthcoming Westminster Election, Mr McShane said: “The SDLP in Newry is in a very healthy position. Our branch numbers continue to increase with new young members joining the party.

“We are completely energised and focused on getting Justin McNulty elected as MP for Newry and Armagh to give our people a voice that it hasn’t had for a decade. 

“The SDLP will continue through our strong representation on the new council to work hard for the people of Newry, Mourne and Down.”

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