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South Belfast MP To Give Up NI Assembly Seat
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South Belfast MP To Give Up NI Assembly Seat

South Belfast MP MLA & SDLP Leader Alasdair McDonnell is to leave Stormont in favour of the Westminster Parliament.

His decision to give up being an MLA at the Northern Ireland Assembly rather than his Westminster seat was of little surprise to anyone including his South Belfast constituents, some of whom thought that the SDLP would be unwilling to risk losing the seat to the DUP in a by-election.

Its not so much a question of whether there is a doctor in the house but what house the doctor is in and now we know that as of the summer when neither houses actually sits, the doc will be leaving to concentrate on the House of Commons.

His departure will not trigger a by-election due to the PR system at Stormont, rather it means that the SDLP not the constituents of South Belfast will decide who represents the constituency until the next Northern Ireland Assembly Elections due next year. It is expected that the SDLP will decide on who they are to co-opt into the constituency when it holds its party convention on the 25th June 2015.

The big question now for the 65 year old doctor is whether he can retain the SDLP leadership whilst at Westminster when most other party leaders will be either in the NI Executive or at least in the Northern Ireland Assembly. With big hitters within the party such as Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan the MP for Foyle indicating he should go, what will be the fate of Alasdair McDonnell?

Will it be an on-going cartoon of 'what's up doc?' or a 'that's all folks!' from the SDLP's current leader?

Despite being an MLA since 1998 Dr McDonnell has decided to continue as an MP, having been first elected in 2005 but this cannot be a surprise given he was elected with just 9,560 votes, with some claiming the South Belfast count made election history.

Double jobbing has to come to an end before the next NI Ireland Assembly election which is expected in May 2016 and other NI parties including the DUP must decide on Stormont or Westminster, following the act banning MPs from double-jobbing.

From the electorate's point of view its almost an irrelevance which gravy train they choose?