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Former soldier Andy Allen co-opted as East Belfast MLA

Former Soldier Andy Allen Co-opted As East Belfast MLA * #userInformationForm *

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Former Royal Irish Regiment soldier Andy Allen, who was seriously injured in Afghanistan, has been appointed as the Ulster Unionist Party’s east Belfast MLA replacement for Michael Copeland

14:32 Tuesday 15 September 2015

Former soldier Andy Allen, who lost both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan, has been co-opted to replace Michael Copeland as the UUP MLA for East Belfast.

Mr Allen said: It is a huge honour and a privilege to be co-opted by my Party Leader to replace Michael Copeland. I would like to thank Michael for all his help and assistance in the past and wish him well on what I hope will be a road to recovery.

I have served my country and want to continue to serve my community. That`s why I`m here. I look forward to getting down to work as soon as possible because it`s work on the ground that can make a difference. There may be doubts about the future of this Assembly, but while it`s here, I`ll be a dedicated public servant for the people of East Belfast. He said for too long veterans in Northern Ireland have been ignored .

I fully intend to use my position to highlight the needs of veterans and try and make sure that their needs are not sidelined. There`s a lot of work ahead, but I`m looking forward to it, he added. UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he believed Mr Allen s analysis is a valid criticism of the Assembly and added that we need more people with life experience beyond the political bubble and Andy ticks that box .

The Ulster Unionist Party believes the country must always come before party political interest, he said.

In Andy Allen we have a man who knows all too well about service and sacrifice for his country and I am delighted to say he has accepted my invitation to join us here at Stormont, succeeding Michael Copeland as MLA for East Belfast.

Andy was born and bred in the east of the City and I have no doubt he will serve all the people of the constituency well. He will of course also promote the interests of members of the armed forces and their families, as well as disability issues and on that point, I will be asking for a meeting with the Speaker s Office because the Chamber is not wheelchair friendly, and there is no easy way for a wheelchair using MLA to vote, as access to the lobbies involves negotiating steps.

I again wish Michael Copeland a return to good health and wellbeing and assure him and his supporters that Andy Allen will offer a continuity of the compassion-based political representation Michael championed during his time at Stormont.

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