On the 17 January 2017, I asked the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Mr David Davis  about what arrangement will the UK Government make to accommodate the 70% of my constituents who voted to remain in the EU and intend to retain the benefits.

Alasdair McDonnell “I commend the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) for her sanity and common sense, and the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) for bringing a degree of integrity to the discussion.

Does the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU recognise that I, and thousands of others in AlasdairNIQJune112014Northern Ireland, will not be leaving the EU willingly? We recognise the very significant benefits that have flowed from EU membership. We hold EU passports and we intend to retain them. What arrangements will he make to accommodate us, the people like me and the 70% of my constituents who voted to remain in the EU and intend to retain the benefits? Will he, while he is at it, perhaps tell us how he intends Northern Ireland to have its voice heard at Joint Ministerial Committee meetings and in the negotiations generally over the next three months?”

David Davis “Since the beginning of this process—since I took up my post—we have put the preservation of the stability and the interests of Northern Ireland pretty much at the top of the tree of the negotiations, particularly on issues such as maintaining an open bodavid-davis-mprder and preserving the economic basis of Northern Ireland, which is very dependent on trade with the Republic of Ireland. On the JMC, I do not know if it has gone yet but yesterday I approved a letter to the Northern Ireland Executive—although the next Government is now subject to an election, most Ministers are still in place—asking that during the interim period they send representatives, whether ministerial or otherwise, so that we are always across the interests of Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman must take it as read that I am absolutely committed to maintaining the stability, peace and prosperity we have got used to in the last several years.”



On the 17 January 2017, I asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire about the RHI scandal, the need for a public enquiry, restoring public confidence in the political settlement and what will happen after an election in Northern Ireland.

Alasdair McDonnell MP “Will the Secretary of State share with us more of his thoughts on what he expects to happen after an election in Northern Ireland? Does he accept that theAlasdairNIQJune112014 problems will remain? Without his calling a public inquiry on the RHI or, if he cannot find a way to do that, his making it clear that he fully supports a public inquiry, public confidence in our political settlement will sink even lower, making restoration of the Executive even more difficult. That is what people have been telling me on the streets during the past few days and the past week. They said that they need clarity, as we are having an election in a fog”.

James Brokenshire “Clearly, RHI scheme issues have been very much at the heart of what has led to the election that I have now called. It is right that we get answers on that, because it is crucial to james-brokenshire-mpre-establishing trust and confidence, seeing accountability and giving answers to the public about what has taken place. As I have said, it is right for that to come from Northern Ireland, as much as is possible, as this was a devolved issue and something that related to decisions within Northern Ireland. But I stand ready to work with people and consider options on a cross-community basis where support is commanded across the community. This is about how we get those answers and inject confidence back into the whole process”.


On Monday 16 January 2017, Dr. Alasdair McDonnell MP held a Public Meeting in the Wellington Park Hotel to hear the views of constituents on the proposed removal of the rates cap announced by Finance Minister, Máirtín O’Muilleoir MLA.

On the panel was Dr. Alasdair McDonnell MP, Cllr Declan Boyle (Botanic) and Ray Farley from the Fair Rates Campaign.

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell MP explained that he organised the meeting because Cllr Declan Boyle and himself had been inundated with calls, emails and text messages from constituents concerned about the impact of removing the rates cap.

After a brief introduction from all the panellists, Alasdair opened the meeting to the floor as the main focus was to hear the views/concerns of local constituents.

A constituent addressing the public meeting about the removal of the rates cap.


A wide range of concerns were raised from the floor as we heard from single persons, pensioners and parents with young families.

There was a consensus that a more equitable approach should be taken by Finance Minister, Máirtín O’Muilleoir MLA.

It was also stressed that the Rating System needs to be properly updated but should reflect best practices in other jurisdictions.

With the uncertainty at Stormont and the forthcoming Assembly Election this proposal may be shelved but we cannot be sure it won’t come back in 6 months time.

This is why I am urging you to respond to the Consultation Paper of the Rates Rethink.

You can print/download the consultation paper by clicking on the link https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/consultations/rates-rethink

Queries and consultation responses should be sent to: ratingpolicy.cfg@finance-ni.gov.uk

Written responses to: Rating Policy Division, FinTru House, 1 Cromac Avenue, Gasworks Business Park, Belfast, BT7 2JA.

The deadline for submission of consultation responses is 16 February 2017 at 17:00.


Mary McAleese, TK Whitaker and Dr. Alasdair McDonnell

MP for South Belfast Dr Alasdair McDonnell has said he is deeply saddened at the passing of one of Ireland’s greatest economic and political minds-TK Whitaker. 

Speaking following his death yesterday Dr McDonnell said:

“TK Whitaker has been a seminal figure in Irish life for the past century. He played an absolutely pivotal role in improving economic standards of living across the Island of Ireland. We are all deeply saddened at the passing of someone who has helped shape modern day Ireland as we know it.

In the North we should be particularly grateful for the interest TK Whitaker showed in our troubled past and for his help in moving us along the road to peace and greater prosperity. TK Whittaker wrote a policy document in 1971 called ‘A Possible Solution’ which effectively became the very basis of the Good Friday Agreement almost 30 years later-for that we are eternally in his debt.

TK Whitaker has received many plaudits and awards over the years which were richly deserved. I was delighted that the SDLP arranged a special tribute lunch in Dublin for him in October 2014 which was supported by hundreds of key friends and supporters.

Only last month TK Whitaker reached his 100th Birthday-a milestone celebration for a man who devoted his life to improving the outlook and circumstances of every citizen right across the Island of Ireland. We are much poorer today for his passing-but take heart and inspiration from his incredibly rich legacy of work.”



This will happen under the proposals put forward by South Belfast MLA and Finance Minister Máirtín O’Muilleoir.

His plan, which he describes as the “biggest shake up in rating policy in a generation” includes a removal of the existing rates cap.

The current rating system caps the rateable value of household properties at £400,000, but the Minister wants to do away with this cap. This means that any homes with a value over £400,000 will now be subject to rates levied on any potential value over £400,000.

If you feel you could be affected by the proposed changes, please join us at 7pm on Monday 16 January 2017 in the Wellington Park Hotel.

Please see below the leaflet I have been distributing throughout South Belfast.




In late November 2016, I was contacted by a large number of constituents concerned about the proposed demolition of the Bedoiun village of Umm al-Hiran in Southern Israel.

In response to the concerns raised with me I sent an urgent letter to the Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon Boris Johnston MP (see below).


Umm al-Hiran was established in 1956, after its residents were displaced by Israel from Khirbet Zabaleh.

Following a long legal battle, bulldozers were due to enter the village and demolish it.

In my letter I asked that the Government make urgent representations to the Israeli Government and encourage them to lift the threat of demolition.

I received a response (see below) from Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State responsible for relations with the Middle East.

As you can see from the letter the planned demolition of Umm al-Hiran was raised with the Israeli Ambassador on the 23 November 2016.

Government Response - Umm al-Hiran.png

Istanbul Convention: Private Members Bill – Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill

A Private Members Bill was brought before the House of Commons by Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP and called on the Government to commit to a timetable of ratifying the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty which has been described as the “gold standard” of legislation for gender-based violence.

On Friday 16 December 2016, I attended the debate and with the other two SDLP MP’s voted for the Bill that would ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

Whilst I was unable to speak on the Bill, I was delighted to vote in favour of it and was glad to see the Bill successfully progress to the Committee Stage.

If the Bill is passed, the UK Government will be obliged to guarantee funding for shelters, rape crisis centres, helplines and education in schools on healthy relationships.

The UK was involved in the development of the legally binding pan-European treaty; however, despite signing the Istanbul Convention in June 2012, the Government has yet to ratify it, making it legally binding.

I can assure you that the SDLP MP’s will continue to support this Bill.


Prior to the debate, I also raised a written Parliamentary Question on the time taken to ratify the Istanbul Convention with the Secretary of State for the Home (Home Secretary), see the question and reply below.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the effect of the time taken to ratify the Istanbul Convention on women who have experienced domestic, sexual, emotional and financial violence in the last four years. (56493) Tabled on: 07 December 2016


The Coalition Government signed the Istanbul Convention in 2012 to show its strong commitment to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), and this Government remains absolutely committed to ratifying it. Given that in most respects measures already in place to protect women and girls from violence comply with, or go further, than the Convention requires, time taken to ratify the Convention has not impacted on women who experience violence and abuse. Our cross-Government VAWG strategy sets out our ongoing commitment to tackling these crimes, and is underpinned by increased funding of £80 million. The Government has already taken extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) for female genital mutilation and forced marriage, but before the Convention is ratified we need to take ETJ over a range of other offences. We will seek to legislate when the approach to implementing ETJ is agreed and Parliamentary time allows.



Alasdair travels to Dublin every other week to sit on the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Over the past number of months the Committee have been hearing evidence on the implications of Brexit for the Island of Ireland.


On Thursday 15 December the Committee heard how border regions would be adversely effected by uncertainty over border control and other issues. Witnesses included Peter Conway, Waarenpoint Harbour, Michael Blayney, Autoline, Conor Patterson WIN and Newry Chamber.


On the 25 October 2016, I asked the Prime Minister Theresa May about EU withdrawal and the impact it would have on the Good Friday Agreement and the 1998 political settlement.

Alasdair McDonnell “The Prime Minister will be aware that much of the foundation and many of the elements of the 1998 settlement and peace agreement in NortheAlasdairNIQJune112014rn Ireland were referenced and rooted in EU approaches and processes of laws and that leaving the EU will significantly destabilise the foundations of that settlement. Has the Prime Minister given any consideration to the extent of the potential damage the withdrawal from the European Union could do to that Good Friday/Belfast agreement and the 1998 political settlement? Does she have any plan at this stage to protect that settlement?”

The Prime Minister “There is no reason to believe that the outcome of the referendutheresa-may-mpm will do anything to undermine the absolute rock-solid commitment of this Government and the people of Northern Ireland to the settlement that was set out in the Belfast agreement.

There is, and remains, strong support for the entirely peaceful future for Northern Ireland. That has been determined by democracy and consent. We remain committed to that and to work with others to ensure that entirely peaceful future.”



On the 12 October 2016, I asked the Prime Minister Theresa May a question about post-Brexit border controls.

Alasdair McDonnell “The Prime Minister will be aware that the soft border between NortherDr-Alasdair-McDonnell[1]n Ireland and the Irish Republic was vital in boosting the economy of Northern Ireland. Does she understand the confusion that has set in, and that many of us feel? On the one hand, the Government define their intention tightly to control the free movement of people and labour, yet on the other they assure us that that border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will continue to be open. Does she see the contradiction for many of those directly affected, and whose jobs are affected?”

The Prime Minister “I have been clear, the Secretary of Stare for Northern Ireland has beetheresa-may-mpn clear, and the Taoiseach has also said that, on both sides of the border, we do not want to see a return to the borders of the past. It is worth reminding the House that the common travel area has been in place since the 1920s, so it was there well before we were both members of the European Union.

We are working with the Government of the Republic, and I have had discussions on this with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. We want to ensure that we do not see a return to the borders of the past.”

You can check the media coverage of the PMQ at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37638019