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06th Feb 2024

Justin McNulty keen to retain his seat despite SDLP pressure after helicopter trip to Wexford

Niall McIntyre

Laois have got off to a flying start to the League under new manager Justin McNulty so it’s only right that the Armagh man was flown to the game…

McNulty has been faced with some backlash in recent days, for his decision to leave the first sitting of Stormont’s new assembly for Wexford Park on Saturday, ‘without seeking permission.’

The former All-Ireland winner with Armagh is an MLA (member of the legislative assembly) for Newry and Armagh, but ‘missed out on parliamentary business’ on Saturday having made the three-hour-round-trip to Wexford in his capacity as Laois senior football manager.

McNulty over-saw another impressive win for the new-look O’Moore county, but while that job is going well, his role as an MLA (member of the legislative assemly) for Newry has come under some scrutiny in recent days.

McNulty’s SDLP party leader Colum Eastwood told BBC Radio Foyle yesterday that the situation “wasn’t ideal,’ before calling on the former full back to ‘engage properly,’ in discussions about compromising the arrangement.

“We have been trying to engage with Justin for months over this,” he told BBC Radio Foyle yesterday.

“We’ve offered all sorts of compromises around this and he’s yet to engage properly.”

McNulty is said to be keen to retain his seat, and will even go as far as sitting as an independent in the parliament if needs be.

He was however urged by Eastwood “think very carefully” about such a move. “That’s a party seat, people voted for the SDLP,” he said.

McNulty’s appointment as Laois manager for the second time (he also managed them between 2010 and 2013) was met with some opposition at the time, but matters at the weekend brought it all to a head.

A live-stream of the parliament showed that McNulty was present in Stormont before 2.00, until, as it has now been reported by the Belfast Telegraph, he was flown to the game in a helicopter.

A source told the paper that the helicopter provided by “a former SDLP backer with deep links to the GAA.”

McNulty won an All-Ireland with Armagh in 2002, playing on the team alongside his brother Enda in the full back line. He also won five Ulster championships during his career as an Armagh senior footballer.

From there, he went onto management and won a Cavan senior football title with Mullahorn in 2005 before managing St Brigid’s to the Dublin senior football final in 2007, where they were beaten by St Brigid’s.

McNulty has also worked as a selector with his native Armagh, and has been a member of the Northern Irish assembly since 2017.

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