At the time it was announced, the BBC reported that Sinn Féin MLA Paul Butler “denied he was retiring from party politics because of disappointment at not being given a chance to run in West Belfast”. Although, as I noted, someone was briefing the Irish News otherwise…
And in an interview in today’s paper, political correspondent Diana Rusk reports
For the first time, [Paul Butler] confirmed reports that he had wanted to run for the party in West Belfast after boundary changes meant there was no winnable seat in the Lagan Valley constituency.
“I’m disappointed I’m leaving politics,” he said. “I’d rather have stayed in politics.
“I would have liked to have run in the West Belfast seat to help reduce the levels of deprivation and bring employment into the area.”
And he’s being much more open with his thoughts on the party itself, of which he is still a member.
“On things like these issues with the economy and making hard decisions rather than populist decisions, Sinn Féin needs to change,” [Paul Butler] said.
“Sinn Féin has always been a party of protest against direct rule ministers and I include myself in that.
“But the reality is Sinn Féin is the party of government and governments have to make hard decisions. [added emphasis]
“I do believe the present budget the executive passed was just to get them through to May and that they will come back to it.”
One of those “hard decisions”, he says, is on water charges.
“If you don’t get extra revenue over the next four years you are going to have an increase in tuition fees, job losses in the public sector, schools are going to suffer and roads won’t be maintained,” [Paul Butler] said.
“The only source of revenue is selling off assets and levying the Belfast port but the present market is depressed from the property crisis so it is unrealistic.
“Really the only place where the Stormont executive can go is the area of water charges.”
Adds Given the timing of the publication of this interview – the day after the Assembly was dissolved – it seems evident that Paul Butler was only prepared to speak out after the possibility of the party leadership censuring him was no longer a consideration.
Compare Billy Leonard. Not that Billy Leonard has ‘spoken out’ per se…
On Paul Butler’s comments, the question is how many within the party agree with him?