Former RUC man may take Stormont post for Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein assembly member Francie Brolly could be replaced next month by a former member of the British Crown forces.

Last week Mr Brolly announced he would retire as a member of the Stormont Assembly for East Derry by the end of the year.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said a selection convention to replace the Dungiven man is expected to take place in mid-November.

The chosen candidate’s name will then be forwarded to the assembly for the person selected to take up office early next year.

Former RUC policeman Billy Leonard has been tipped to take the seat. In 2004 Mr Leonard defected from the SDLP to join Sinn Fein. The 54-year-old, a former Orangeman, stood as a Sinn Fein candidate in the Westminster election in 2005.

Limavady mayor Cathal O hOisin and former mayor Brenda Chivers are also expected to compete for the post.

The 71-year-old Francie Brolly was elected to Limavady Council in 2001 and the Assembly in 2003 and 2007. He was a prominent member of the Assembly Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee and has had a lifelong association with the GAA and Irish Language.

Mr Brolly, along with his wife Anne, is also known for his recordings of a number of albums of folk/traditional songs, and he wrote the renowned ‘The H-Block Song’.

Confirming the news, he said: “I have been proud to serve the great people of East Derry in all their diversity and I thank God for the privilege of living among them in what is surely one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, steeped in culture and rich in history.

“I am confident that Sinn Fein in East Derry is now stronger than at any time in our history.

“This was not an easy decision to make but there comes a point in everyone’s life when they must take such decisions.

“I intend to remain active within Limavady and offer my full support to whoever the constituency selects to replace me in the Assembly.”

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: “Francie Brolly has touched the lives of generations of people throughout Ireland and beyond. His has been a life full of commitment and dedication to the cause of Irish freedom and justice; to Irish culture and the language and, as a teacher, to the future of our young people. He brought an immense dignity and humour to the Republican struggle.

“Francie will be missed by our Assembly team and on behalf of the party I want to wish him, Anne and their clan all the best for the future. Go neirigh an tadh libh.”

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© 2009 Irish Republican News