Four will pursue SDLP leadership

[caption id="attachment_66980" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Margaret Ritchie on the street with Alasdair McDonnell who is now one of four trying to succeed her."]


The field isn't quite as crowded as the Irish presidential one but four candidates will contest the leadership of the SDLP at the party's annual conference in November.

Alex Attwood MLA, Conall McDevitt MLA, Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA, and Patsy McGlone MLA have all received the

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

required number of nominations to go forward to contest the leadership of the party and all four have declared their

intentions to stand as a replacement for outgoing leader, Margaret Ritchie.

There will also be a contest for the position of deputy leader of the party. Colum Eastwood MLA and Dolores Kelly MLA will go head to head for this post, also in November.

The leadership challenge was sparked in the summer when deputy leader Patsy McGlone signaled his intention to put his name forward at the annual conference.

This came after Margaret Ritchie, who took over the role as leader 18 months ago, was personally criticized for the SDLP's disastrous Assembly election where the party returned with only fourteen seats.

Earlier this month, Ritchie said she would not contest the leadership election and was stepping down as MLA for South Down. She said she would instead be concentrating her energies as MP for the constituency.

Announcing the four contenders, SDLP chairman Joe Byrne said: "As chairman of the party, I want to put on record

our gratitude to Margaret Ritchie MP MLA, our outgoing leader for her work and dedication to the party over many years as a district councilor, MLA and MP for South Down.

"Margaret is SDLP through and through and has always served the best interests of the party and I have no doubt she will remain a leading light in the SDLP, especially as MP for South Down."

He added: "The party faces many challenges and at the party conference branch delegates have the responsibility now to elect a new leader and deputy leader and party officers to take the party forward to the next stage of our development.

"I wish all the candidates the best of luck with their campaigns over the coming weeks."

When judged in electoral terms, the SDLP has been replaced by Sinn Féin over the past decade as the leading voice of northern nationalism and were outmaneuvered by the republican party again when the SDLP's leadership announcement latel last week was overshadowed by Sinn Féin revealing that Martin McGuinness was to run for the Irish presidency.