Independent unionist ‘gentleman’ MLA David McClarty dies

Coleraine man and MLA for East Londonderry constituency, David McClarty has died, aged 63.

David McClartyAn independent unionist MLA since 2011 when he successfully fought off competition from the two candidates selected by UCUNF, he had previously been a member of the UUP and a served as a UUP MLA between 1998 and 2010. By not rejoining the UUP group after the May 2011 election, the UUP lost the opportunity for a second Executive seat (which went to Alliance).

He served as one of the deputy speakers in the Assembly between May 2007 and May 2011, and was first elected onto Coleraine Borough Council in 1989.

Married to Norma with two sons, he was part of a church choir and an amateur actor, regularly performing with the cross-community Ballywillan drama group in Portrush … The parishioner at Killowen Church in Coleraine had been a member of the church choir since the age of 10. He also enthusiastically supported Coleraine FC. (The News Letter)

Right across the political spectrum, politicians have paid warm tributes to the MLA who was very highly respected.

[Lord Empey, UUP] At all times David was a real gentleman in politics; he managed to combine sincere beliefs with a great sense of humour and was slow to make political enemies, which says a lot about him. The past year has been a real struggle for David and his family, and I was always touched by his great optimism and fortitude even when he knew the odds were against him. He was always willing to put his views forward in a fearless manner, but did so in a way that did not add hurt or injury to many inflamed situations.

[John Dallat, SDLP] There is no more warm and affable man in politics today. David leaves behind a legacy of good will and a shining example of how communities can work and live together. His ability to work with every political party and every shade of political opinion made him a beacon of hope for a future that’s inclusive of everyone.

[Cathal Ó hOisín, SF] Despite having different political views I always found David to be a gentleman in all my workings with him. I worked on many issues with David and found him to be totally professional.

[David McNarry, UKIP] I will miss his humour and kindness. He was a true moderate unionist and a gentleman and an able public representative. My sympathy goes to his family. The assembly will be a poorer place without him.

[Basil McCrea, NI21] David was a model politician; he was in frontline politics for 25 years, but always remained down to earth, good humoured and passionate about representing the people of East Londonderry and Coleraine. In the cynical and very divisive worlds of politics this was a rarity – He was a really good man and I know he will be sorely missed.

[Mike Nesbitt, UUP] David was probably the most popular MLA in Stormont, a man whose company I always enjoyed. He was always a positive, progressive thinker and I am sorry that I didn`t get the opportunity to work with him as a party colleague in the Ulster Unionist Assembly group.

[David Ford, APNI] He made a significant contribution to the Assembly since 1998, including his time as Deputy Speaker. He showed how popular he was locally when he was elected as an independent to the Assembly in 2011. He was a very well liked politician who worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents.

[Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP] A fierce constituency politician who stood up for the interests of all those who came to him for help, David was also a kind and good humoured member of the Assembly. Coleraine, the north coast and indeed our politics generally, will be emptier without his warm, reasoned influence.

[Jim Allister, TUV] David was one of the gentlemen of politics, but no push over. He stood up for what he believed in and though our politics differed in emphasis, we shared a mutual respect and some common causes. Indeed just a year ago we were to go on a joint meeting to discuss the future of the Northern Trust when he fell ill and the meeting had to be cancelled. Sadly, David made only one return visit to the Stormont chamber in July when he was greeted with a round of applause. Such was his popularity. He fought his illness with great courage and tenacity. Even how he faced his illness was a mark of the man. He will be missed on the ‘opposition’ benches at Stormont and in a much wider and community field.

Brian Spencer David McClarty

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.

  • (If David had lodged a list with the Chief Electoral Officer, a replacement MLA can be co-opted; otherwise there will be a by-election over the coming months.)

  • Comrade Stalin

    RIP David, thoughts with his family.

    UCUNF made a huge mistake when it deselected him.

  • cynic2

    The cynicism of the UUP in praising him now so fulsomely (and he deserves it) after they dumped him

    He was an honest decent and committed politician who did his best for his local community without fear or favor. We have too few of those and the cartoon of him striding so far above his peers is so appropriate

  • Politico68

    I can only assume UUP dumped him off their list because of his charming, decent and genuine politics. Not much space for that sort pf person in the UUP or the DUP these days. God rest his soul.

  • Greenflag

    Sad news for his family and the local community by all accounts .Northern Ireland could do with a lot more politicians like Mr McClarty . I don’t recall him ever being a subject of controversy here on slugger which is perhaps an indication of his all round decency .


  • SK

    A great and decent man. RIP.

  • Red Lion

    I only mentioned David McClarty on slugger a day or two ago.


  • dodrade

    Given how popular he was with almost everybody why on earth did the UUP deselect him?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Can I just add my sympathy, only met David a few times and he was as stated a gentleman. Best wishes were sent to him at the UUP conference and it was not just a gesture but strongly supported by everyone present.

    As for the de-selection, I don’t why the local branch made the decision, it was clearly wrong from the start, but being an extremely democratic party it was not easily overturned, however my guess it it probably would have been except for likely knock on effects elsewhere.

    Obviously he had faults like us all, but the praise is genuine enough and the faults small enough to make the tributes for once accurate and earned.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Truly a gentleman, Northern Ireland in general and the Assembly in particular will be the poorer for his loss. I met with him many times and was always struck by his genuineness, his kindness and his great humour. The tributes pouring in from all sides are a genuine reflection of how well he was respected and admired.

  • Barry the Blender

    Given how popular he was with almost everybody why on earth did the UUP deselect him?

    He came first in the constituency member ballot. He was deselected because a committee from the association, comprised of officers and party hacks thought the found somebody better. Some people had old scores to settle.

    Drumlin’s Rock,

    As for the de-selection, I don’t why the local branch made the decision, it was clearly wrong from the start,

    Don’t go fobbing off the local party as scapegoats here. The UUP executive committee approved the decision.