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04th Feb 2024

Laois manager Justin McNulty suspended by SDLP for leaving work for Gaelic football match ‘without seeking permission’

Niall McIntyre

Laois senior football manager Justin McNulty has been suspended by the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland for leaving work early ‘without seeking permission’ on Saturday afternoon.

The former All-Ireland winner with Armagh is an MLA (member of the legislative assembly) for Newry, 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.

Laois took on Wexford in Division Four of the Allianz National Football League on Saturday, defeating their hosts on a scoreline of 1-19 to 0-12.

This is McNulty’s second stint as Laois manager, having guided them to promotion to Division One of the National Football League in the first year of his first stint, back in 2010.

He left his post as Laois manager for the first time back in 2013, but returned at the beginning of this season, despite some opposition from political ranks.

Goalkeeper Killian Roche top scored for Laois for the second week running with 0-5 (0-3f, 0-2 45), bringing his tally to 0-10 for Laois’ first two games of the League.

Forwards Shaun Fitzpatrick and Evan O’Carroll were also on top form for the O’Moore county, registering 1-6 between them. McNulty didn’t speak to reporters after the game, in the wake of the mini-storm that was brewing behind him.

The SDLP confirmed to the BBC last night that McNulty is suspended for leaving Stormont without seeking permission, having missed out on “important parliamentary business which included the SDLP taking up its role as the official opposition at Stormont,” according to an SDLP spokesperson.

“All SDLP MLAs were informed by the party’s chief whip that attendance at today’s sitting was mandatory for the duration of the assembly proceedings,” the SDLP’s spokesperson told the BBC.

“People rightly expect their elected representatives to be there for work,” the spokesman said.

Mr McNulty could reportedly be seen in the background of a live-stream of Saturday’s proceedings in Stormont from 1pm. However, with his party colleague Matthew O’Toole being appointed Leader of the Opposition, McNulty didn’t appear to be present, having made his way to the football game which threw in at 6.00.

“Justin has worked very hard as an MLA. He cares passionately about Newry and Armagh. He also has taken up a role with the GAA,” Mr O’Toole had told the BBC earlier this week.

“We are engaged in a process to discuss with Justin those two roles, but we are clear – and we have been clear in the past – that the role of an MLA is a full-time one.”

It now appears that McNulty may have to choose between the two posts. 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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