It seems we will be saying goodbye to many political faces as the Assembly and needlessly delayed council elections approach.

The latest to fall is the unelected MLA for East Derry, former lots of things, Cllr Billy Leonard.

The declared reason from the 55yr old for leaving political life is the time required to write a book (he clearly doesn’t have the stamina of an older, prolific SF author)

, , , , ,

  • joeCanuck

    Good luck to him; he’s had an interesting career. Should be a fascinating book.

  • medillen

    Good luck to Billy an excellent MLA I am sorry to see him go, but wish him and his family well.

  • Mark McGregor

    Indeed. It ‘should’ be.

  • Mark McGregor

    Excellent? How?

  • Barry the Blender

    Hardly the most shocking piece of news. There is a list as long as your arms as to why Mr Leonard would not be contesting the election (his own personal choice doesn’t feature on it though).

  • Mark McGregor

    It does. He is writing a book.

  • Barry the Blender

    No politician’s ever managed that while sitting in a legislature before have they?

  • Mark McGregor

    Lets have a look at the numbers for Leonard.


    2001 Francie Brolly -6,221
    2005 Billy Leonard – 5,709
    2010 Cathal Ó hOisín – 6,742

    (he lost votes)

    Assembly 2007:

    Francie Brolly 4476
    Billy Leonard 2321

    Votes at Council:

    2001 – Billy Leonard, (SDLP) 988
    2005 – Billy Leonard, (SF) 895

    (changed wards/party and got less votes)

    Aye, the guy was a triumph!

  • Billy

    Is it ‘cos I is Prod?

  • Barry the Blender

    Well, yes he lost some votes in 2005 Westminster, many came back in 2007 to Brolly and he didn’t poll that poorly for a sweeper candidate (especially if you’re Sinn Fein and your main base is Coleraine).

    Although clearly the nationalists of East Londonderry preferred they guy who spells his name in Irish (that’s commitment ton hating the brits for you)

    The fact that Leonard was to be the candidate for Westminster 2010 and then he wasn’t hinted that all was not rosy for him in East Londonderry Sinn Fein. A wee protestant from Lurgan could be a hard enough sell on the doorsteps of Dungiven and I had previously thought he might have been edged out by a running mate in 2011 (especially Hassan who has now got a reasonable enough profile)

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Hard one for us to deal with isnt it?.
    Mr Fealty last night reported on the Derry SDLP situation and generously adds today that the subject of his piece last night, Helen Quigley will remain in the SDLP.
    Therefore let me add that the news story MMG links refers to Billy Leonard still being active in Sinn Féin.
    Retiring at 55 to write a book. I feel a certain empathy.
    And it can scarcely have escaped anybodys notice that the SF candidate (Derry) in the Westminster Election was not Mr was Cathal O’hóisin. Now I think that was a pretty obvious sign that Billy Leonard would not be contesting the Assembly Election.

    So is this a story where there is less than meets the eye?
    A story that is more than meets the eye?
    Or is it a story that exactly meets the eye?
    No idea.
    But neither does anyone else….anymore than Derry SDLP last night or SF in Belfast the night before.
    And its a difficult thing…. the book.
    At the weekend we were invited to think about whether only Sinn Féin leaders were “allowed” to write a book. Well seemingly not as it stretches things to think of Mr Leonard as a “leader”.
    But fair play to him.
    He has led and continues to lead a diverse life as a Sinn Féin voice in a town where his republican detractors would not open their mouths.
    And certainly just about every other ex RUC man has written a book. So why not Mr Leonard.? It could actually be very interesting and in its own way a service to Irish Republicanism……at least as much as a backbench SF member.
    Indeed being both an ex-RUC man AND ex SF MLA gives his book a certain gravitas that being a councillor in Coleraine wouldnt. No doubt he is has been planning his book for a while and maybe the SF leadership helped sales along by giving him a higher profile over the last few years.

    As we know from previous threads where many have expressed being “impressed” by Darkie Hughes, there is seemingly a market for this kinda thing.
    I look forward to seeing Mr Leonard talking about his book on our radio and TV next year.

  • White Horse


    You’re surely not saying that Sinn Fein would play to sectarianism. Surely it is the best man for the job. Can’t see anybody better qualified than Billy.

    As to Billy’s claim to be writing a book. As the man says, “Neither am I.”

  • Mark McGregor

    Barry(the whatever),

    What are you taking about?

    SF are only exceeding the level of the 2003 Brolly/O’Kane ticket now.

    On the numbers alone it looks like Leonard put SF back near a decade in East Derry.

  • White Horse


    Mr Leonard is no Darkie Hughes. I can’t help thinking that there will be a small enough market for this shallow follower of many ideologies.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed but curiously you omitted 2003
    Westminster 2010…O’hoisin 19.3%
    Westminster 2005….Leonard 16.1%
    Westminster 2001 …Brolly 15.6%

    Assembly 2007….Sinn Féin 20% (Brolly 13%, Leonard 7%)
    Assembly 2003 …Sinn Féin 18% (Brolly 12% O’Kane 6%)

    So in 2005 Leonard “lost” 500 votes but actually increased SF share by 0.5%
    And in the 2% increase in Assembly votes in 2003 Leonard actually added a full 1%. You appear to have overlooked the fact that Mr Leonard is not based in the SF heartland in East Derry.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well with respect this is a SDLP supporters perspective and as partisan in its own way as a REpublican dissident naysayer.
    There are of course a lot of shallow followers of many ideologies around……John Turnley ………Protestant SDLP who became IIP. How is he viewed?

  • drumcairnharp

    Have just heard that Billy Armstrong is standing aside to allow his daughter to stand. Seemly she is being given a free run because she is the UUP’s Women’s development officer This will be her reward for not standing up for Paula Bradshaw and telling the world that UUP candidates are picked on MERIT.

  • Mark McGregor


    Surprisingly I omitted it because I was a member of SF in a similar constitiuency during much of the same time period – Lagan Valley where gaining in real terms was done not notional percentages.

    I’m at a loss to how Leonard can be painted as an ‘excellent’ MLA – he was never elected and failed to build any SF vote.


  • Barry the Blender

    I’m not disputing your point that he’s an electoral liability.

    But 2007 was the first time SF took 2nd place in East Londonderry (with 20% of the vote their best performance yet). I would attribute that to Brolly though. Big improvement on Lenoard’s 4th place. Leonard was beaten by Dallat (SDLP). Together Brolly and Leonard wiped the floor with the SDLP in 2007.

    I don’t think Leonard has set the party back in East Londonderry. I would venture he’s being dropped now before he gets the chance to do so.

  • joan

    you don’t understand white horse – only the bearded one or those who live in his shadow are allowed to write books

  • Mark McGregor

    can you email Mick on that – seems stand alone material

  • White Horse

    I don’t recall his books, Fitz.

  • White Horse

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens nearer the time of publication. Will they rescue him for expressing his humiliation by laying down the law?

  • The Raven

    Errr…yeah..he was MLA for all of 20 minutes….

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thats tomorrow nights conspiracy theory sorted out 🙂
    But surely we all knew that the Westminster Election in May was a trial run for Ms Overend…………cant sy that Im shocked.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Sooo………..Billy wasn’t an excellent MLA……but a liability ??

    Begs the question…………… El Beardo a liability or a deplorable MLA ?? 🙂

  • Not quite as straightforward as that, but same result.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Sectarianism from Sinn Fein voters???

    Surely not!!

  • Rory Carr

    Politician retires to write book, eh? Bet that’ll put the wind up Jeffrey Archer.

  • Framer

    Paula Bradshaw having left politics is about to be paraded as a defector to the Alliance Party whence her man Parsley came.

    Will they never be in the same party?

  • Nordie Northsider

    I don’t understand the hostility towards Leonard. It’s not as if being a Protestant Sinn Féiner in a town like Coleraine is an easy option. The prospects for career advancement aren’t exactly blinding either – the Westminster seat is unwinnable for Sinn Féin, so Mark’s few per centage points are neither here nor there.
    Leonard spoke very well and very calmy after the murder of Kevin McDaid, as did the SDLP’s John Dallat. It’s a hard station, dealing with the rampant sectarianism in the Coleraine area. People ought to think of that before they accuse Leonard of jumping on or off bandwagons.

  • White Horse

    Surely the weasle words of the machine that has just humiliated him.

  • Nordie Northsider

    White Horse – I have no idea who you are or what you’re on about.
    I wrote that as someone who grew up in Coleraine and who sees it get steadily worse and worse – peace process or no. I have no influence, or very much interest, in Sinn Féin. I don’t know if Leonard was humiliated by his party or not, but what I do see is a lot of personal spite against the man, which usually comes with accusations of careerism. I find this inexpilicable. Say what you will – Coleraine is no soft seat for a Nationalist of any dye.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Today is turning out to be a bizarre one.

  • Barry the Blender

    Why do you say that Comrade Stalin?

  • White Horse

    Sorry NN.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Dead on, White Horse. I also want to know what’s behind the enigmatic pronouncement of Comrade Stalin. Don’t keep us in suspense man.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s distantly related to Mark’s mention of musical chairs within political parties 🙂

  • The Raven

    If Messrs Leonard and Dallat had acted, spoken and worked in the area, with a little more sense *before* those unfortunate events, perhaps I could read this and not be tutting quite so much.

  • Hedley Lamarr


    I don’t think Sinn Fein choosing Billy Leonard as an MLA was tokenism. If you change parties as an elected representative it is a matter of course for you to be a candidate in your new party.

    I agree with Nordie N. Billy did a lot of good work. He is articulate, intelligent and capable.

    I also can’t agree that he put Sinn Fein back by nearly a decade in “East Londonderry”. There are many variables in a constituency. As Lisa Simpson says in the Simpsons “I have a wooden stick that keeps tigers away. Well there are no tigers near here are there?”

    As for being an Orangeman and an RUC reservist in the past. The more the merrier. Someone coming from that background can give an insight and experience that comes from having a unique perspective.

  • barnshee

    “I find this inexpilicable.”

    A person so consumed with ambition, craving for power/influence that they would join -The RUC- the Unuionist Party,- the OO- The SDLP -SF this is not careerism? If not what is it?