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MLAs in war of words following ‘party over constituency’ remark

By Paul Ainsworth

A ROW has broken out between two South Belfast Assembly rivals over comments made by one in a recent TV interview.

The dispute between the Alliance Party’s Anna Lo and the new South Belfast SDLP leader and current South Belfast MP and MLA, Alasdair McDonnell, came after the latter stated he would be putting his “party before the constituency”.

Anna Lo hit out at Dr McDonnell’s comments asking what sort of message it sent out to constituents. However Dr McDonnell hit back accusing his fellow South Belfast MLA of scoring “cheap political” points.

Following last week’s interview with the new SDLP leader on BBC’s Hearts and Minds, Ms Lo said: “I was very surprised at Alasdair McDonnell’s comments. Democracy is about representing the people in your constituency first and foremost. I simply could not believe that he said he would be putting his party first. What sort of message do his comments send out to the public?

“You are elected to represent the people of your constituency and to say that the party will be the first priority is deeply troubling.”

Ms Lo also slammed Dr McDonnell for his “double jobbing” at both Stormont and Westminster, and questioned why he remained in both roles.

Yet in a stinging rebuke, the SDLP leader defended his duel political roles, and said: “Anna knows I run two very busy constituency offices and employ 10 people who provide a first class professional advice and support service to the people of South Belfast.

“I also hold a series of coffee mornings and public meetings across the constituency to ensure I am as accessible as I can be. I try to win votes by sheer hard work and not by taking cheap political shots at my opponents. It’s regrettable that Anna Lo has gone down this path, but anyone who lives in South Belfast knows how committed I am to representing and working on behalf of everyone.”


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