Councilor leaves Greens to go to SDLP after failed Assembly elections

A member of the Green Council in south Belfast left the party and joined the SDLP.

Eamon Lee said he was very impressed with the leadership of Colum Eastwood and Claire Hannah and the party was “perfect for him”.

Mr Lee admitted that the disastrous results of the Greens’ Assembly election, in which they lost both of their MLAs, “may have been a factor” in his departure.

Presbyterian, he comes from the trade union movement. He has a degree in theology, is considering becoming a minister, and describes himself as a “man of faith”, but supports the SDLP’s stance on Irish unity.

A native of Carryduff, he was elected to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council in 2019 and is running again in local government elections the following year.

Mr Li (43) joined the Greens eight years ago. “I have always had problems with climate change, but having children has motivated me to take action to save the planet for future generations,” he said.

When asked why he left the party, he said: “It was not an easy decision, but I already feel that I am welcomed, wanted and appreciated in the SDLP.

“I am a Social Democrat and the party’s policies on social and economic justice, well-funded public services, protecting the environment and challenging decisions that have led to climate change reflect my own convictions.

“I decided Alliance wasn’t for me because they were too direct.”

Asked if internal tensions within his former party led to his resignation, Mr. Li said, “I’m not interested in going against the Greens. I don’t want to get into it.

“I want to leave on good terms. I want to leave in a good mood out of respect for the friends I’ve known for so long.

“I hold no grudge against any of the Greens. I have developed long lasting friendships with good people who do great work in their communities. I wish them all the best, but this is the right move for me.”

Asked if the defeat of Claire Bailey in South Belfast and Rachel Woods in North Down had influenced his resignation, Mr Lee said: “There is no doubt that the loss of two seats in the Assembly was a bitter blow.

“Perhaps this was the reason for my departure, but everything is much more complicated. The SDLP also had very difficult elections. There is no security in politics.”

Regarding the future of the Greens, Mr Li said: “In the short term, it will not be easy to regain these seats in the Assembly. They have a mountain to climb. The poor election result was not due to the failure of the Greens, it was simply the rise of the Alliance.”

A teacher of religion at Belfast Metropolitan College, Mr Lee described his journey from trade union to Irish unity party.

“My family immigrated to Canada in 1987 and I went to school in Toronto,” he explained.

“I came home and told my father: “We have Catholics in our class,” and he said: “We have this custom. They don’t care.” I was wondering why we were separated in Northern Ireland.

“When we got home, I was a unionist by default because that’s how I was raised. My first vote was in the 1998 Assembly election after the Good Friday Agreement and was for the trade union party.

“The year before I entered Queen’s University, I was in Chicago on a student exchange program. The Americans loved the Irish. you were Irish.

“I started to feel more Irish. I started at Queen as a moderate trade unionist, but by the time I graduated, I was no longer one.”

Mr. Lee said that since the Good Friday Agreement, people have felt “more free to explore their own personality.”

He said: “I traveled more to Dublin, Galway and Cork. I felt connected to these places. I did not consider them a foreign land, I felt that I belonged to it.

“I love the SDLP idea of ​​a new Ireland, there’s something exciting about it.

“It’s not about holding on to the past, it’s about exploring new possibilities. Some people might think it’s weird for a Protestant, but I don’t believe it’s that unusual after Brexit.

“Brexit exposed the democratic deficit here. Even if 100% of the voters remained, it wouldn’t make any difference – it doesn’t feel right. New SDLP Ireland Policysensible, positive and balanced.”