Justin McNulty: SDLP suspend Newry and Armagh MLA who left Stormont for GAA game

Inpho credit
Justin McNulty took on the role of Laois Gaelic football manager in October 2023. Credit: Inpho

The SDLP has suspended one of their MLAs after he left an assembly sitting "without permission" to managed a Gaelic football team.

Justin McNulty, the MLA for Newry and Armagh, attended the opening stages of Saturday's meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly but left before proceedings ended.

Mr McNulty left the chamber to travel to Co Wexford where his team, Laois, were playing a match. The MLA took up the manager's role in October 2023.

Saturday marked the first assembly sitting in two years. History was made during the meeting when Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill was appointed as Northern Ireland's first nationalist First Minister.

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly was appointed as the deputy First Minister.

Meanwhile the SDLP took up its role as the Official Opposition at Stormont, lead by South Belfast SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole - a moment Mr McNulty missed in the chamber as he had already left the assembly.

In a statement issued to UTV on Sunday, an SDLP spokesperson said all of its MLAs had been "informed by the party's Chief Whip that attendance" at Saturday's assembly meeting was "mandatory for the duration of the assembly proceedings".

“This was a historic day that saw the restoration of devolved government, the election of the first nationalist First Minister and Leader of the Opposition," the statement added.

"People rightly expect their elected representatives to be there for work.“We expected all members of our team to be there to support their colleagues.

"Accordingly, as Mr McNulty was not in his place, did not seek the permission for his absence and breached the direct instruction of the whip, the SDLP Chief Whip has suspended the whip with immediate effect.”

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