Billy Leonard

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Billy Leonard
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for East Londonderry
In office
7 January 2010 – 25 March 2011
Preceded byFrancie Brolly
Succeeded byCathal Ó hOisín
Personal details
Born (1955-01-13) 13 January 1955 (age 66)
Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Political partyIndependent Republican
Other political
Sinn Féin, Social Democratic and Labour Party
Spouse(s)Valerie Leonard

Billy Leonard (born 13 January 1955) is an Irish republican retired politician. A former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) officeholder, he then joined Sinn Féin, but is now an Independent Republican.

Born in Lurgan to a Protestant family,[1] Leonard is a former member of both the Royal Ulster Constabulary reserve and the Orange Order. He was also a Seventh-day Adventist lay preacher. His wife, Valerie, is a Roman Catholic from the Kilwilkie republican estate in Lurgan, and their children were raised in her faith.


In 2001, Leonard was elected in the Skerries area of Coleraine Borough Council as a representative of the SDLP, having joined them while studying political science at the University of Ulster,[2] but left in 2004 to join Sinn Féin. He cited the SDLP's lack of emphasis on Irish unity for his departure from the party. He was the first Sinn Féin member of the council, and was re-elected in 2005 in the Bann area.[2] He stood unsuccessfully for the party in East Londonderry at the 2005 general election, and in the constituency of the same name at the 2007 Northern Ireland Assembly election.[3]

Leonard was nominated by Sinn Féin to succeed Francie Brolly on the latter's resignation as the Sinn Féin MLA for East Londonderry, and took office on 7 January 2010.[4] In November 2010 it was announced that Leonard would not contest the 2011 Assembly election, so that he could devote his time to writing a book, Towards a United Ireland – an uncompleted journey.[5][6]

Leonard stated that disagreements "over support arrangements for MLAs' wages and expenses" were the reason for his decision to leave Sinn Féin in 2011.[7] A 2012 interview published in the Belfast Telegraph quoted Leonard as saying that the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) still have a big say in the running of Sinn Féin. "The tentacles of the army still run throughout it", he said and stated that former republican prisoners still dominate the structures of the party.[8]


  1. ^ SDLP man defects to Sinn Fein", BBC News, 19 January 2004
  2. ^ a b Coleraine Borough Council Elections 1993–2005
  3. ^ East Londonderry
  4. ^ "Ex RUC man becomes Sinn Fein MLA", BBC News, 19 November 2009.
  5. ^ Sinn Féin MLA Billy Leonard steps aside to write book
  6. ^ "Billy Leonard's journey from RUC reservist to Sinn Fein MLA". BBC News. BBC News. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  7. ^ How Orange RUC man joined and left Sinn Fein, Belfast Newsletter, 25 July 2012
  8. ^ "IRA still have a big say in Sinn Fein says ex MLA and RUC man",, 21 June 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Francie Brolly
MLA for Londonderry, East
Succeeded by
Cathal Ó hOisín