Northern Ireland Election 2016

Third councillor in Tyrone leaves SDLP

Colum Eastwood
Image caption Colum Eastwood took over the leadership of the SDLP in November. Three councillors in County Tyrone have left the party in the space of a week

A third Tyrone councillor has quit the SDLP over the party's internal differences.

Joanne Donnelly, from Omagh, said she would back Josephine Deehan and Patsy Kelly, who left the party last week.

They will contest the assembly election in West Tyrone as independent social democrats.

In a statement released last Tuesday, Ms Deehan and Mr Kelly said supporters felt the party was "out of touch".

Councillor Donnelly said the decision to leave the party "broke her heart", but there was a culture which needed to change.

The resignations are seen as the first test of Mr Eastwood's leadership.

"These issues are difficult. We're a democratic party, we've had two selection conventions - one to replace Joe Byrne as an MLA, the other to decide who our candidate was going to be," Mr Eastwood said.

"We'd one person put their name forward - that was Daniel McCrosssan. He got unanimous support from the party membership, unanimous support.

"If people wanted to put their name forward, they should have put their name forward."

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