Outgoing East Londonderry MLA Gerry Mullan is to stand as an independent in the forthcoming Assembly elections following a bitter dispute with the SDLP.
Mr Mullan, a former mayor of Limavady who had been in the SDLP for almost 20 years, said the party has lost its way and that he has now cut all ties.
He also said there are others within the party in East Londonderry who are “considering their position”.
His departure follows the decision to select the Assembly’s former deputy speaker, John Dallat, as its candidate for East Londonderry although the News Letter understands the dispute runs much deeper.
Mr Dallat and Mr Mullan, long-standing colleagues, have been at odds for some time now and Mr Mullan described the decision to select Mr Dallat for the election as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
He said: “The local constituency members should have decided who they want to represent them and they were not allowed that opportunity by the party, which I feel is unfair.
“The party that I supported and worked so tirelessly for over nearly 20 years, from the days of John Hume, Seamus Mallon and the first nationalist mayor of Limavady, Arthur Doherty, that is not the party of today.”
Mr Dallat retired with a severance package worth tens of thousands before recently making his return to politics – just eight months later. He has indicated his willingness to repay the money if he is elected in March.
Mr Mullan, however, urged him to repay the money before the election, saying: “If John Dallat is so keen on looking out for the public purse, as he says he is, he should repay that money and if he cannot find a way, he should write a cheque to the Foyle Hospice.”