Belfast Telegraph

McDonnell vows to fight for his seat in south Belfast

By Pauline Reynolds

He may have lost his SDLP leadership battle but Dr Alasdair McDonnell has vowed to fight on and retain his south Belfast seat in the forthcoming Westminister election.

“My staff and I have worked tirelessly to provide a highly professional constituency service to all the people of south Belfast regardless of their community or cultural background,” he told The CT.

“In my view I am here to represent each and every resident. I am not interested in sectarian politics.

“I am interested in people politics and I will fight and win the Westminster election on my track record of delivery”.

Dr McDonnell was narrowly defeated by 35 votes in the SDLP leadership election at the party’s annual conference in the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle at the weekend.

Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie won by 222 votes to 187, a margin of nine percentage points.

She is the first female leader of the party in its 40-year-history.

MLA Patsy McGlone will now take up the deputy leadership post.

In her acceptance speech Ms Ritchie paid tribute to Dr McDonnell and urged delegates to get behind efforts to make sure he retained his parliamentary seat.

“I would like to pay tribute to Alasdair McDonnell for we all know what a campaigner he is and we are all behind him as we seek to have him re-elected as MP for south Belfast,” she said.

Dr McDonnell in turn wished Ms Ritchie well in her new role and pledged to support her as she led the party into the future.

He thanked all those who helped and supported him in his leadership campaign and said the SDLP is wholeheartedly united behind its new leader.

“I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone in south Belfast and beyond who worked tirelessly on my leadership campaign over the past several months,” he said.

“I also want to thank all those in the party who voted for me. I am humbled by your dedication and faith in me.

“This leadership contest has breathed new life into the SDLP.

“There was a renewed excitement and buzz at conference and I hope we can harness this energy going forward.

“I want to also pay tribute to Margaret who was an outstanding opponent.

“The SDLP faces a number of challenges, organisationally, electorally and politically.

“We need radical change. Together Margaret Ritchie and Patsy McGlone will lead this party from strength to strength.

“This is the start of the SDLP fight back.”

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