McDonnell elected new SDLP leader

Published Saturday, 05 November 2011
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Alasdair McDonnell has taken over from Margaret Ritchie at the helm of the SDLP after winning the leadership contest at the party annual conference in Belfast.

The South Belfast MP thanked all those who voted for him.

"This is the proudest moment of my political life," Dr McDonnell told party delegates at the Ramada Hotel on Saturday.

He saw off the challenge of three party colleagues for the leadership - Patsy McGlone, Alex Attwood and close runner-up Conall McDevitt.

Only 36 votes separated Mr McDonnell and Mr McDevitt in the final count.

Much talk in SDLP about Conall McDevitt's good performance. A leader in waiting, some are saying.

UTV's Political Editor Ken Reid on Twitter (@KenReid_utv)

Dr McDonnell thanked his challengers and pledged to lead the party to a political revival - he is the second leader to be elected in less than two years, and had finished runner-up in 2009.

He had a stark message to the DUP and Sinn Féin in Saturday's victory speech.

"We helped arrive at an agreed Ireland in 1998," he said - referring to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The two parties that are now in power have turned that agreed Ireland and tremendous opportunity into a grubby little deal - they are like Afghan warlords dividing up the spoils."

He said he would restore the party to its position of relevance.

"For me the task is set," he told fellow party members.

"You've chosen me to lead the recovery and the renaissance of this party.

"I will do it. I want you to enjoy yourselves for the rest of the evening because tomorrow the work will have to start."

Ms Ritchie announced her plan to step down in September, in the wake of poor general and assembly election results.

First Minister Peter Robinson took to Twitter to congratulate the new SDLP leader.

"Well done Alasdair. Look forward to working with you," the DUP leader wrote on Saturday evening.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: "I wish Alasdair McDonnell well. I hope the new leader will display a positive, constructive and forward looking attitude."

Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly was elected the new SDLP deputy leader.

© UTV News
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12 Comments
Brian in Armagh wrote (1,084 days ago):
Complete tripe! This man is being judged before he has even spent 24 hours of the sdlp?! I prefer alastair than anything the 'ourselves alone' party has to offer. And I only hope that things change in the North so that a real government can exist!
Charlie in Belfast. wrote (1,084 days ago):
Alasdair, may I as a South Belfast voter avail of this opportunity to congratulate you on being elected as leader of the S.D.L.P but I was extremely disappointed that not one of your Party colleagues, yourself included, wore a poppy in remembrance of our fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives in order that Protestants, Roman Catholics and all others of different religious denominations can live and enjoy our freedom in a free society.
David in belfast wrote (1,084 days ago):
Dr McDonell bigist fan is himself, this result will only feed his inflated ego, Mrs Ritchie was a total disaster, Dr McDonell will follow her lead, the SLDP will loose futher ground a middle class party for middle class so called nationalists, Dr McDonell might be the new captain but the ship is holed beneath the water line, only a matter of time before it sinks.
joe 90 in belfast wrote (1,084 days ago):
from one idiotic leader to another - great, great news for sinn fein. the s.d.l.p. (stoop down low party), have stooped to a new low by electing this self centred and shallow man as leader.
Michael in Belfast wrote (1,084 days ago):
Dr. McDonnell has twice been elected to Westminster with significant cross community votes. I am not sure that any other MP has achieved this community confidence. That's a measure of the man!
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