In this mornings Belfast Telegraph, Suzanne Breen reports trouble in the SDLP’s ranks as three of their councillors on Belfast City Council have quit the party.
Cllrs, Pat Convery, Declan Boyle and Kate Mullan were suspended after they abstained on a motion dealing with harassment outside reproductive health facilities.
The three who abstained told the Belfast Telegraph that they were quitting the party with “profoundly heavy hearts”.
They said they would not resign their seats but would continue to sit on the council as “independents”. They stated that they had “no current plans” to join another party.
Mr Convery, a former SDLP vice-chairman who was first elected to Belfast City Council 16 years ago for the Castle ward, said: “I never thought it would come to this. I’ve been SDLP all my life, my family are SDLP.
“The party I joined was one of inclusiveness and I feel that no longer applies.
“The SDLP needs to go back to its roots of being a broad church where everyone is welcome.”
The councillor said that “moral issues should be matters of personal conscience and party policy should reflect that”.
The SDLP has issued a short statement in response;
“Following a breach of party discipline, Cllr Patrick Convery, Cllr Kate Mullan and Cllr Declan Boyle had the party whip withdrawn.
“The party process has been followed to deal with the matter. The councillors decided not to participate in that process. We thank them for their service.”
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs