Sinn Fein’s Paul Butler is to quit the Six-County assembly after what he said had been a difficult decision.
It was reported that the veteran Sinn Fein politician chose not to contest the May Assembly election after being overlooked as a possible replacement for Gerry Adams in West Belfast.
Boundary changes to the Lagan Valley constituency made it unlikely that he would be able to retain the seat at the next election after the most nationalist part of his constituency was moved to West Belfast. In addition, some republican areas of the constituency have seen an increase in support for ‘dissident’ groups.
Mr Butler had been at the forefront of Sinn Fein’s efforts to counter sectarianism.
Long Sinn Fein’s sole representative in a strongly unionist constituency, he battled for years to oppose bigotry in Lisburn council and throughout the constituency.
Despised by unionist politicians, Lisburn Mayor Ronnie Crawford took part in the ritual burning of an image of Mr Butler as recently as 2008.
It has been suggested that Mr Butler, who lives in west Belfast, would have been an obvious choice to replace Mr Adams when he resigned to stand for election in the 26 Counties.
There were reports that Mr Butler had hoped to be nominated for the constituency so that he could remain in elected politics. However, his name was not put forward for nomination and the party selected former hunger striker Pat Sheehan for the seat.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Mr Butler made no reference to any difficulties within the party.
“This has been a difficult decision for me to make after being involved in elected politics at the Assembly and on Lisburn Council for the last 14 years,” he said.
“I want to thank the people of Twinbrook, Poleglass, Lagmore and Dunmurry who elected me to Lisburn Council for three council terms to represent them as their councillor, and the people of Lagan Valley who helped me become the first Sinn Fein MLA for Lagan valley in the Assembly elections of 2007.
“In particular, I want to thank all of those Sinn Fein members who helped me with my election campaigns and made it possible for me to be an elected representative. It has been a great honour for me to be an elected representative at both Lisburn Council and at the Assembly.”
Mr Butler, a former joinery teacher, said that he intends to still be involved in campaigning and helping to “better people’s lives”.
“I also hope to continue my work on the Long Kesh project which I have been heavily involved in over the years,” he added.