NORTH Belfast councillor Paul McCusker has announced he will stand as an Independent candidate in the upcoming Council elections in May.

The Oldpark DEA representative has resigned from the SDLP.

Paul, who is well known for his work on homelessness in the city, topped the poll in 2019 with 2,856 votes.

Paul said: "I have been undecided on what to do regarding my political future as it’s been a challenging year for me, I have decided that I would be best placed to run as an independent in the upcoming council election.

"I honestly have been left frustrated and disheartened with politics at central and local level giving the lack of progress on issues that I am very passionate about, this set the basis of my decision.

"Issues such as addiction, homelessness and poverty continue to impact on the lives of individuals and families who I support and I will continue to highlight and lobby on behalf of those who experience these issues if elected in May.

"We have continued to see year on year very little focus on the important issues that I highlight resulting in more deaths, lack of suitable services and people plunged into despair and misery, it is very difficult to sit back and watch this not get the political attention it deserves.

"Continuing as an independent will allow me to give a voice to those who often feel forgotten and continue to fight for better services.  

"People deserve politicians that will help effect change and be willing to make a difference on the important issues that impact on them, we have a political system that is not working and this is impacting on so many lives."

An SDLP spokesperson said the party was disappointed Mr McCusker was "stepping away".

"It's been a tough time for him but we've really enjoyed working with Paul and he'll continue to have friends in the SDLP who wish him well in the future.

"The SDLP will be making an announcement about additional Belfast City Council candidates shortly."