N. Ireland Politics

NI Assembly election: Who is stepping down from Stormont?

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Media captionBBC News NI looks at the MLAs who have decided not to stand for re-election in May

May's Northern Ireland Assembly election will almost certainly herald a generational shift in the region's politics.

Some seasoned politicians have already made way, with the co-option system - which allows parties to replace departing MLAs with a colleague without a by-election - having been used fairly liberally during the past term.

Several more have chosen to retire from the cut and thrust of political life, while others have failed to secure selection for another election campaign.

BBC News NI looks at those who will shortly be removing the nameplate from their office door.

Alliance Party

Judith Cochrane

After a single term, the East Belfast MLA is stepping down, with party favourite Naomi Long returning to stand in the constituency after losing her Westminster seat last year.

Ms Cochrane, a former councillor, took her place in 2011 as the Alliance Party gained a second seat in a single constituency for the first time.

She sits on the finance committee and the assembly commission, which is responsible for the Stormont's day-to-day running.

She has touched on some controversy in the assembly, both opposing and later abstaining in votes on the introduction of same-sex marriage, which her party supports.

Anna Lo

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The UK's first ever parliamentarian from the Chinese community, Anna Lo is ending her nine-year spell as an MLA.

She topped the poll in the South Belfast constituency in 2011, having taken a seat from the Ulster Unionists in the 2007 election.

But in 2014 she announced she had become disillusioned with politics.

Racist abuse directed at her by loyalists, she said, had influenced her decision not seek re-election.

Kieran McCarthy

An ever-present in the assembly since 1998, the former draper has spent more than 30 years in politics.

The past Alliance Party chief whip has increased his vote in the Strangford constituency since 2003.

But he, like Ms Cochrane, has not voted with party policy on same-sex marriage, to which he remains opposed.

Now 73, his retirement will be most likely be spent biking around the Ards peninsula and working on his vintage Morris Minor.

Democratic Unionist Party

Gregory Campbell

The last of the double-jobbers, Mr Campbell has had to choose between his seats in Stormont and Westminster as a result of a new law.

From May, politicians can only hold one role - MLA or MP - and the East Londonderry representative has decided to remain on the green benches of the House of Commons.

The DUP veteran, 63, has become an unmistakable figure in the assembly.

Never afraid of clashing with nationalists across the chamber, his "curry my yoghurt" remark in 2014 is just one example of his penchant for a spot of verbal sparring.

Stephen Moutray

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Having first been elected to the assembly in 2003, the Upper Bann MLA is a stalwart of the DUP backbenches.

But he was defeated by Carla Lockhart, a young DUP councillor who works in his office, in a selection contest last year, setting up one of the most intriguing battles of the entire election.

Mr Moutray has said he will use his time away from politics to focus on his business ventures.

He passes on the family's political baton to his son Philip, who sits on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council.

Peter Robinson

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With the ink dry on November's Fresh Start agreement that brought a three-month Stormont crisis to an end, Mr Robinson decided the time was right to announce his departure from politics.

He said he had helped to "stabilise" the Northern Ireland Executive, and with that he handed his roles as first minister and DUP leader to Arlene Foster.

The high point of his 40-year political career is arguably leading the DUP to its 38-seat haul at the last assembly election, having played a major part in its transformation from a minority party of protest.

Former Castlereagh councillor Joanne Bunting will join sitting MLAs Sammy Douglas and Robin Newton as the party's candidates in Mr Robinson's East Belfast constituency.


Basil McCrea

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Few MLAs have had as turbulent an assembly term as the charismatic Lagan Valley representative.

Elected as an Ulster Unionist, he and John McCallister quit the party within hours of each other in February 2013 and went on to start their own venture, NI21.

But less than a year later, on the eve of European and council elections, the pair split bitterly in full public view and the party imploded.

Mr McCrea claimed a political conspiracy was behind allegations of wrongdoing made against him, which were recently dismissed, and has said he will be pursuing a new career.

Sinn Féin

Bronwyn McGahan

A Sinn Féin member for more than 20 years, Ms McGahan is the only departing MLA who has not contested an assembly election.

After a brief stint as a councillor in her native County Tyrone, she was chosen by her party to replace Michelle Gildernew in the assembly in 2012.

In December, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA announced she would not be seeking re-election.

But when Sinn Féin's ruling council ordered a revote after an initial selection controversy she decided to put her name forward, only for her bid to be unsuccessful.

Mitchel McLaughlin

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When he replaced the DUP's Willie Hay as the assembly speaker last year, Mr McLaughlin became the first republican to hold the role.

He was part of Sinn Féin's negotiating teams for the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998 and the St Andrew's deal in 2006 that ended a spell of suspension of the assembly.

Elected to Stormont in 1998 as a member for Foyle, he switched to contest South Antrim in 2007, where he topped the poll and won Sinn Féin's first ever seat in the constituency.

The 70-year-old announced his retirement in November, having been a Sinn Féin member for about 50 years.

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Dominic Bradley

After successfully directing elections for Seamus Mallon, Mr Bradley was chosen as the successor to the former SDLP deputy leader in Newry and Armagh in 2003, and has held his seat ever since.

The former schoolteacher, 62, is one of several party veterans to recently announce their departure from frontline politics.

As a fluent Irish speaker, he has said he intends to use his time to promote the language.

South Down MLA Karen McKevitt will join former Armagh gaelic footballer Justin McNulty in running in the constituency.

John Dallat

Set to turn 70 shortly, the East Londonderry MLA has been a constant figure at Stormont for the SDLP since 1998.

He is in his second term as one of the assembly's three deputy speakers and has spent the majority of his years as an MLA on the public accounts committee.

He announced his intention to retire last year, closing the book on almost four decades in elected office.

Earlier this year, he told the Coleraine Times his new-found spare time would be split between his Morris Minor Traveller vintage car and his wife and five grandchildren.

Alban Maginness

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The former barrister claims the SDLP "broke the political mould" when he became the first nationalist mayor of Belfast in 1997.

He won his assembly seat in North Belfast the following year and has been a regular at political talks tables through the years.

But as the party began its "renewal" under new leader Colum Eastwood, Mr Maginness decided to bring his career of more than 30 years to a conclusion.

His retirement paves the way for Nichola Mallon, another former Belfast mayor, to stand for the party in the constituency.

Ulster Unionist Party

Leslie Cree

After being asked to fill a casual vacancy on North Down Borough Council in the late 1980s, Mr Cree went on to spend 23 years as a councillor.

He became an MLA for North Down in 2003, and with his keen interest in business he has been the UUP's finance spokesman.

The 74-year-old will shortly become vice-president of the UUP.

The party will stand three candidates in North Down in May, each picked from its council team.

Samuel Gardiner

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The father of the house - the title given to the oldest of Stormont's 108 MLAs - will turn 76 in just over a week's time, sharing a birthday with Mr Dallat.

The Upper Bann MLA's political career has lasted for more than half a century.

With decades of experience behind him as a councillor in the Lurgan area of County Armagh, he stepped up to the assembly in 2003.

He had entered the running to be selected once more as an election candidate but missed out in the early stages, telling the News Letter: "I don't pretend it didn't hurt."

Michael McGimpsey

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One of only three UUP members remaining from the party's team elected to 1998's new Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr McGimpsey announced his retirement in January.

During his time as an MLA he headed the culture department before taking on the health ministry, widely regarded as Stormont's toughest job, for four years.

The South Belfast representative has said his time in that post is one of the highlights of his career.

And it is likely he will remain vocal on the subject of health funding in Northern Ireland, even though that will no longer be from the assembly benches.

UK Independence Party

David McNarry

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Although he has not said he is retiring, UKIP's Northern Ireland leader is not on the party's list of election candidates.

The Strangford MLA first took his place in the assembly in 2003 as an Ulster Unionist, and retained his seat on the party's ticket at the last poll.

But he was expelled from the UUP in 2012 after a row with former leader Tom Elliott and joined UKIP later that year.

Last November, he suggested he could stand in the West Belfast constituency in May, but that has not materialised and his time as an MLA appears to be at an end.