SDLP selects former Treasury adviser Matthew O’Toole for South Belfast seat

A former Downing Street and Treasury adviser has been selected as SDLP Assembly member for South Belfast.

Matthew O’Toole replaces Claire Hanna following her election to Westminster last month.

He has a background in economic policy and communications.

Mr O’Toole said: “I’m delighted to be asked to serve the people of South Belfast at this critical moment.

“The absence of powersharing has put immense pressure on public services, especially the health service, which is felt acutely in places like South Belfast.

“Brexit has also made Northern Ireland immensely vulnerable and been damaging to community relations.”

He said the election to Westminster of progressive, Remain voices like Ms Hanna and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was good news and pledged to defend Northern Ireland from the effects of Brexit.

“I’m humbled to be asked to serve a constituency that is Northern Ireland’s most diverse and open.

“I believe deeply in building in a shared society and South Belfast is an example of how a diverse community can live and work together – I am proud to be their representative.”

Mr O’Toole left the UK Government in September 2017 and works for communications consultancy Powerscourt, as well as regular journalism on UK and Irish politics.

Ulster powersharing
Ulster powersharing

Mr Eastwood said: “I am delighted that we are able to announce that someone of Matthew’s calibre is stepping forward to join our Assembly team and represent the people of South Belfast.

“With a strong background in economic policy, having worked across government and the private sector, Matthew brings an immense amount of experience that will be critical to our efforts to rebalance Northern Ireland’s economy, attract new jobs and defend people here from the impact of Brexit.

“I look forward to working with him at a critical time for politics in the North.”

Ms Hanna said he will make an outstanding Assembly member.