Coleraine man and MLA for East Londonderry constituency, David McClarty has died, aged 63.
An 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.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.