Two further sitting Sinn Féin assembly members have said they will not stand for re-election in the proposed March assembly poll, but have denied that the current debate on policing policy lies behind their decisions.
North Antrim representative Philip McGuigan has confirmed that he will not seek to run again for the assembly but will remain as a Sinn Féin councillor on Ballymoney District Council.
He is also secured a full-time salaried position within Sinn Féin’s six county organisation.
He said that the move had nothing whatever to do with increased demands for party loyalty among Sinn Féin’s Assembly members.
Mr McGuigan said: “With the introduction of the legislation on dual mandates those of us currently sitting on both local councils and the assembly have a decision to make.
“A vacancy has also arisen within Sinn Féin at six county level and after some considerable thought I decided to apply to take on this role while maintaining my council seat.”
Meanwhile, Thomas O’Reilly, who represents Fermanagh/South Tyrone, did not put his name forward for reselection at a party meeting last week.
Mr O’Reilly, who was first elected to the Belfast Assembly in 2003, said his decision had nothing to do with policing or leadership pressure.
“I want to concentrate on the council elections of 2008 for the super-council elections,” he said.
“I am fully behind the party and believe in what we are doing, with reference to policing especially.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Assembly member Geraldine Dougan in mid-Ulster has issued a statement to challenge reports that she had withdrawn from the forthcoming elections for “purely personal” reasons.
“I have decided not to put my name forward to re-selection due to both personal reasons and concerns I have over the direction Sinn Féin is taking on the policing issue,” she said.
She confirmed that she would resigning from the party completely if it backs policing at the planned Ard Fheis.
Following the death of popular West Belfast assembly member Michael Ferguson from cancer, seven of Sinn Féin’s original 24-strong Assembly team will not now be contesting any forthcoming election.