Surprise move as McKevitt selected for Newry and Armagh Assembly election

December 14, 2015

The current SDLP MLA for South Down Karen McKevitt has been selected along with SDLP party colleague Justin McNulty to contest the Newry and Armagh Assembly election next year. The pair were chosen at an SDLP convention held in Newry’s Canal Court Hotel last Sunday night.

The move has come as a surprise as Mrs McKevitt had announced in October that she would not be seeking her party’s nomination to contest her South Down Assembly seat and that she was exploring a number of options that may take her away from the world of politics.

Mrs McKevitt has been an MLA since 2011 and her u-turn has been seen as an attempt by the SDLP to win two seats for the party in the Newry and Armagh constituency, at the expense of Sinn Fein.

Newly elected SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood, who was in Newry for the convention, said he was delighted that the party have “two strong candidates in Newry and Armagh like Justin and Karen. As a team they’re a formidable pair and I’m confident that we’ll make gains here that will build on the substantial progress made at the Westminster election.”

Mr Eastwood also paid tribute to the service of Dominic Bradley both to the SDLP and to the people of Newry and Armagh.

“Dominic had to fill the shoes of political giant Seamus Mallon and there’s no doubt that he’s done us all proud during his time in the Assembly.” The SDLP leader said Mr Bradley’s  work on the Autism Act and on the development and promotion of the Irish Language in particular had distinguished him as a respected and senior member of the SDLP.

“But looking ahead, I’m confident that our local Newry and Armagh team is going from strength to strength,” he added.

“Justin and Karen have the passion and the vision to shape a future for people here that’s better than what has been delivered by other parties. More and more, the SDLP is the alternative to stagnation at Stormont and to callous Tory diktats.

“Where we lead, others are following. Justin and Karen will lead that alternative for local people, they’ll have an important place in our Assembly team and I look forward to supporting them both in the time ahead.

Speaking about her nomination, Karen McKevitt said she was  “honoured and delighted” to have been selected by the SDLP members in Newry and Armagh to fight next year’s election and said the party had never been more relevant.

“The people, our society, need a strong party that is willing to stand up for the vulnerable, for the working man and woman, for children, for the sick, for absolutely everyone across Newry and Armagh and they are aghast at the recent deal between Stormont’s big two parties and their new cronies in the Tories.

“We’ll be taking the message loud and clear to the doorsteps of Newry and Armagh, when Justin and I are in Stormont we won’t sell out our people.”

Justin McNulty added that he was honoured to follow in the footsteps of Seamus Mallon and Dominic Bradley, who he described as “two giants of Irish politics.”

“They are big boots to fill, but it’s a challenge I will relish. I want to build on their good work and with Karen, I believe we will make a formidable team.’