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The independent unionist Northern Ireland assembly member David McClarty has died.

The 63-year-old from Coleraine was treated for cancer. Friends and colleagues said he was a moderate voice of principle.

The East Londonderry MLA left the Ulster Unionist Party in 2011 after being de-selected as a candidate for that year s assembly election.

UUP chairman and peer Lord Reg Empey said: At all times David was a real gentleman in politics; he managed to combine sincere beliefs with a great sense of humour and was slow to make political enemies, which says a lot about him.

He had been one of the UUP s longest serving Stormont MLAs, first elected in 1998 after the Good Friday Agreement which mandated power-sharing.

He was one of the assembly s deputy speakers from 2007 to 2011.

Lord Empey added: The past year has been a real struggle for David and his family, and I was always touched by his great optimism and fortitude even when he knew the odds were against him.

He was always willing to put his views forward in a fearless manner, but did so in a way that did not add hurt or injury to many inflamed situations.

David is a great loss to Northern Ireland politics.

He had said he was considering standing for the UUP again at the next elections.

During a Belfast Telegraph interview in 2012 he said he was a strong opponent of unionist unity, for example between the UUP and Democratic Unionists, which he believed could contribute to sectarianism.

If there is unionist unity does it mean that nationalists and republicans should unite too?

That would perpetuate the them and us scenario and is the last thing Northern Ireland needs.

He also favoured an opposition at Stormont but felt that the UUP should negotiate one rather than withdrawing from the five-party Executive with no guarantees.

A fully funded opposition makes for a much better Government and a much better democracy, he added.

East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat said he left a legacy of hope.

There is no more warm and affable man in politics today.

David leaves behind a legacy of good will and a shining example of how communities can work and live together.

His ability to work with every political party and every shade of political opinion made him a beacon of hope for a future that s inclusive of everyone.

Ukip Northern Ireland leader and former UUP colleague David McNarry said he was a man of principle.

I will miss his humour and kindness. He was a true moderate unionist and a gentleman and an able public representative. My sympathy goes to his family. The assembly will be a poorer place without him.


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