SF MLA Paul Butler to stand down

Sinn Féin MLA for Lagan Valley, Paul Butler, has announced that he will not contest the May Assembly elections after only one term as an MLA.  He resigned from Lisburn Council last month, as the Antrim Times reported.

“I am standing down,” confirmed Mr Butler. “The Party’s position on this is that anyone who is a councillor and an MLA should only have one job.”

The BBC reports that Paul Butler has “denied he was retiring from party politics because of disappointment at not being given a chance to run in West Belfast” after the party chose Pat Sheehan to replace the party president, Gerry Adams, following his move across the border.  From the BBC report

Mr Butler said his decision is not based on what happened in West Belfast.

“I’ve been looking at this long and hard, even before Gerry Adams made this decision to move to Louth,” he said.

“It’s a difficult decision because politics has been a big part of my life.

“I started off here in Twinbrook and Poleglass/Lagmore as a councillor 14 years ago, so it is a sad day for me but at the same time I’m looking forward to the future.”

But the Irish News‘ political correspondent, Diana Rusk, reports

However, sources close to the Lagan Valley assembly member said he had felt increasingly sidelined by the party leadership in recent months and particularly following the resignation of Mr Adams.

Boundary changes to the Lagan Valley constituency made it unlikely that he would be able to retain the seat at the next election after the most nationalist part of his constituency was moved to West Belfast.

It has been suggested that Mr Butler, who lives in west Belfast, would have been an obvious choice to replace Mr Adams when he resigned to stand for election in the south.

Sources close to Mr Butler say he had hoped to be nominated for the constituency so that he could remain in elected politics.

However, his name was not put forward for nomination and the party selected former hunger striker Pat Sheehan for the seat.

Sources also said that he had felt “controlled” in Sinn Féin and unable to express his views without them first being “cleared” by the party.