Daithí McKay

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Daithí McKay
Daithí McKay speaking at the 2011 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for North Antrim
In office
7 March 2007 – 18 August 2016
Preceded by Phillip McGuigan
Succeeded by Phillip McGuigan
Chairperson of Finance and Personnel Committee
In office
2012 – 2016
Preceded by Conor Murphy
Succeeded by Emma Pengelly
Member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board
In office
2007 – 2011
Councillor on Ballymoney Borough Council
In office
Preceded by Joe Gaston (UUP)
Succeeded by Cathal McLaughlin (Sinn Féin)
Constituency Bann Valley
Personal details
Born (1982-03-02) 2 March 1982 (age 35)
Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Sinn Féin
Spouse(s) Michelle
Alma mater St Louis' Grammar School, Ballymena
Website Sinn Féin

Daithí McKay, (born 1982, Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland) is an Irish republican and former politician. He was the Finance spokesperson for Sinn Féin and the Chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee in the Northern Irish Assembly from 2012 to 2016. He was an MLA for North Antrim for 9 years and was formerly a councillor on Ballymoney Borough Council. Whilst an Assembly Member he successfully brought forward legislation that led to the introduction of a Carrier Bag Levy in Northern Ireland and the abolishment of rates for hundreds of Community Amateur Sport Clubs (CASCs).

He resigned from Sinn Féin in December 2016 to take up a role as a political columnist with the Belfast Telegraph. He also contributes to the political blog Slugger O'Toole, the Irish News and is a political commentator on the BBC.


McKay was born in Ballymena in 1982. He was raised in the townland of Ballymaconnelly outside Rasharkin, County Antrim close to Rosnashane in the civil parish of Finvoy. He attended St Patrick's Primary School in Rasharkin and St. Louis' Grammar School, Ballymena.

Before becoming a full-time worker for Sinn Féin he lived in Belfast where he worked for the Ulster Bank. Prior to being elected he was involved in aid work in the Palestinian West Bank where he worked with the International Solidarity Movement accompanying Palestinians to help minimise harassment and attacks from the IDF and Israeli settlers.

Elected Office[edit]

He was elected to Ballymoney Council in 2005 becoming the first ever nationalist councillor from Rasharkin to be elected. Daithí was an adviser to Sinn Féin MLA Phillip McGuigan and was the youngest ever member of Ballymoney Borough Council.[1]

In 2007, it was announced that McKay would contest McGuigan's North Antrim seat in the Northern Ireland legislature on 7 March 2007.[2] He went on to claim his seat after the first count, coming second in the poll behind Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). McKay received 7065 votes to Paisley's 7716. Paisley's son, Ian Paisley, Jr. came in third. [1]

This is the closest anyone ever came to beating Ian Paisley in an election [2]

McKay was the youngest Member elected to the 2007 Assembly and he became one of the first Sinn Féin members to sit on the Policing Board along with Martina Anderson and Alex Maskey. He previously sat as Sinn Féin's representative on the Fire and Rescue Services Board.

Rasharkin Parades[edit]

McKay has been involved in protests against the Ballymaconnelly loyalist parade through the mainly nationalist village since they first began in 2004.[3][4]

In 2010 the parade was restricted and for the first time was only allowed to march the Main Street on the outward parade but not return. [3]

In 2012 two men were fined by a court after McKay reported them for posting sectarian messages on Facebook relating to the village. One of the accused was alleged to have posted : "Let's show the scum in Rasharkin (a Co Antrim village where many Catholics live) how it is done. "God save the Queen. For God and Ulster, Kill all taigs. Lest we forget." [4]

In 2012 representation from McKay and others in the Rasharkin Residents Association helped secure a determination from the Parades Commission that the parade be reduced from 44 to 25 bands. [5]

He has highlighted UVF and UDA paramilitary displays doing the parade and in 2015 the Parades Commission introduced a flags ban on the parade [6]

Giant's Causeway scandal[edit]

In September 2007 McKay sparked off a political scandal in the Assembly when he used parliamentary privilege to name private developer Seymour Sweeney as a member of the DUP in the Assembly Chamber. The DUP's Environment Minister, Arlene Foster, had said that she was 'minded' to approve an application from Sweeney for a private visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway, even though her Planning Service officials had recommended that it be refused.[citation needed]

Foster threatened to take McKay to court over the matter but in January 2008 she decided to refuse the private application.[citation needed] In October 2007, a motion put forward by McKay in the Assembly supporting the closure of the British Nuclear power plant at Sellafield was carried, even though both the Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist parties voted against it. In 2008, McKay set up an all-party working group on climate change. [7]


In June 2008, he was one of four Sinn Féin councillors in north Antrim who reportedly received death threats. [8]

In July 2008, McKay and fellow Sinn Féin member Cllr Padraig McShane sustained minor injuries in a dispute with local republican youths in Ballymena. The dispute arose because of the youths' opposition to the removal of a bonfire to commemorate internment (Operation Demetrius).[5] McKay said they were in the area "in opposition to criminal and antisocial elements who are using this bonfire as a cover for other activities". The incident was captured by a BBC camera crew.[6]

In May 2009 there were a series of attacks on property in Rasharkin, including an attack on McKay's house and a cafe in the village. The North Antrim MLA blamed anti-social elements 'masquerading as republicans' and said that these people would not deter him from his work as an Irish republican. [9]

A bomb threat was phoned through to McKay's Sinn Féin office in January 2015. The caller claimed that a bomb had been left outside McKay's home but police later declared this a hoax after searches took place at Mr McKay's property. [10]

Carrier Bag Levy[edit]

In 2011 McKay introduced the "Single Use Plastic Bag Bill" to the Assembly which eventually was passed by the Assembly as the "Single Use Carrier Bag Act 2011" [11]. He had raised the matter through a Private Members Debate previously and is believed to be responsible for Sinn Féin ensuring that the levy was included in the Executive's Budget in 2010. [12]

The 5 pence levy was introduced in April 2013 [13] and McKay's Bill also ensured that the proceeds went towards environmental and community projects [14]

The Bill has resulted in the reduction in usage of carrier bags in Northern Ireland by tens of millions annually.[15].

The SpAd Bill[edit]

In 2013 McKay led the opposition to the Special Advisers Bill brought forward by TUV leader Jim Allister. The Bill aimed to dis-bar ex-prisoners from being Special Advisors to Ministers in the Executive. During the closing debate in which Allister's Bill was ultimately passed McKay made a marathon 2 hour speech in opposition. This remains the longest speech ever made by an MLA in the Assembly [16]

Cycling activist[edit]

In 2014 Daithí was crowned the 'Cycling MLA of the Year' [17] after submitting 127 parliamentary questions on cycling in one year. A keen cyclist and user of public transport he highlighted what he saw as fundamental flaws in how government departments approached cycling infrastructure.

Campaign to abolish rates for Sport Clubs[edit]

In 2013 Daithí McKay started a campaign to abolish rates for sport clubs in the north. In his second piece of legislation he proposed that CASCs (Community Amateur Sport Clubs) should have 100% rate relief on their grounds and facilities. In his Bill consultation he received over 1,000 responses, one of the most successful consultations for an Assembly Bill to date. He secured the support of the majority of MLAs but the DUP blocked the bill controversially using the Petition of Concern. [18]

The campaign however still proved successful with the Department of Finance and Personnel subsequently committing to grant 100% rate relief for clubs as long as they did not have licensed bars. [19] A proposal put by McKay to the Assembly was also passed that ensured that the Department had to have regulations in place by the end of September 2016. [20]

On 26 October 2016 full relief for CASCs without bars was introduced by the Finance Minister. [21]


On 13 July 2016 McKay called on the Parades Commission to bar Dervock Young Defenders band from partaking in parades in sensitive areas following an incident in Ballycastle on 12 July. [22]

After McKay made a presentation to the commission with members of the Rasharkin Residents Association the band were barred from participating in the Ballymaconnelly parade in August. [23]

It was alleged that after this parade decision was made the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson leaked details of messages he exchanged with Mr McKay in which McKay refers Bryson to a third party whilst he chaired the NAMA Enquiry in the Assembly [24]

The First Minister Peter Robinson resigned less than 2 months after Bryson made allegations at the Finance Committee and McKay was accused of helping to 'take out' the First Minister that was in office with his party colleague Martin McGuinness at the time. [25]

McKay resigned as an MLA on 18 August 2016. [26]

Columnist & Writer[edit]

McKay began writing for the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and the political blog Slugger O'Toole in December 2016.

In his first article he called on mainly nationalist councils to introduce the flying of the tricolour from government buildings in the north for the first time by adopting a flags policy of equality rather than neutrality. [27]

McKay believes that the mandatory coalition system that puts the DUP in power automatically is flawed and does not benefit republican objectives. He has called for Assembly reform. [28] A suggestion he has put forward for discussion is that a hybrid model of a weighted majority system retaining some cross-community safeguards would help address political 'gridlock' [29]

He believes that the Executive needs to use their influence to relax the law pertaining to cannabis for medicinal use [30]

After the Assembly collapsed over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal in early 2017 McKay said that the Irish Language Act, unimplemented since the St Andrew's Agreement, should be agreed before the institutions are restored. [31]

He has his own blogsite and a Twitter page. He also works as a commentator on BBC radio.


  • Health 2015-2016
  • Finance 2010 - 2011 and 2012 - 2016 (Chairperson from 2012 - 2016)
  • Education 2011-2012
  • Enterprise, Trade & Investment (Deputy Chairperson from 2010 - 2012)
  • Environment 2007 - 2010
  • Public Accounts Committee 2012 - 2015
  • Rasharkin Community Association
  • Rasharkin Residents Association
  • Chair and Founder of the Assembly All-Party Working Group on Climate Change 2008 -2011
  • Member of All Party group on Cycling 2014 - 2016


  1. ^ "The Irish Politics Website". Politics.ie. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  2. ^ "UK | Northern Ireland | NI Assembly election candidates". BBC News. 2007-02-13. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  3. ^ Rasharkin residents could take legal action over paradeBelfast Telegraph
  4. ^ 100 Protest At Rasharkin ParadeBallymoney Times
  5. ^ "BBC coverage of physical confrontation in Ballymena". BBC News. 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  6. ^ "Irish Times' coverage of physical confrontation in Ballymena". Irishtimes.com. 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Phillip McGuigan
MLA for North Antrim
2007 - 2016
Succeeded by
Phillip McGuigan