Eamonn McCann to step down as Derry councillor on health grounds

Veteran rights campaigner announces decision after diagnosis with the neurological condition

Veteran activist Eamonn McCann is to step down as a councillor for health reasons.

Mr McCann said he had been diagnosed with the neurological condition ataxia, which made it "increasingly difficult" for him to fulfil his duties as a councillor. A member of People Before Profit (PBP), Mr McCann is a former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Foyle and was elected to Derry City and Strabane District Council in 2019.

A lifelong campaigner, socialist and trade unionist, he was one of the driving forces behind the civil rights movement which emerged in the North in the 1960s.

He contested his first election in 1969 as a Northern Ireland Labour Party candidate, but lost out to John Hume. He found electoral success almost 50 years later, when he was elected to the Assembly in 2016, becoming an MLA at the age of 73.

He is also a journalist, writer and a former chairman of the Bloody Sunday Trust.

In a statement on Monday, Mr McCann said he had made his intention known to his party and had asked it to set in motion the procedure for selecting a new councillor in his place.

He said he thanked all those who voted for him, saying "I have done my best to deliver on the mandate given to me". And it had been a "privilege" to represent the Moor area of the Bogside and Creggan in Derry, "where I was born and reared".

Struggle against oppression

He was confident, he said, that PBP would nominate a councillor in his place who “will continue to serve the interests of the people of the Moor and contribute to the struggle against oppression and against capitalism, the never-ending source of all our political ills”.

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood was among many who paid tribute to Mr McCann on Monday evening, saying that while they had not always agreed he had "always been in awe of his dogged determination. As a student, he stood up and helped bring down a corrupt, sectarian government. He's been standing up against injustice ever since."

PBP Assembly member Gerry Carroll said "best of luck to my comrade and socialist fighter of many decades, Eamonn McCann . . . I know he'll not stop campaigning and fighting on a range of issues, as he has done for many years."