Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Is Ritchie to run for leadership of SDLP?

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie (above) has confirmed she is considering throwing her hat into the ring for the SDLP leadership.

As speculation grows on who will replace Mark Durkan when he stands down in February, the South Down MLA said it was something she would think about.

Speaking about the issue for the first time since Mr Durkan revealed his intention to resign, Ms Ritchie said her consideration of running came from support both inside and outside the SDLP.

“I've had many people approach me within the party asking would I run, naturally I'm considering,” she said.

“It's five months to the actual election at the beginning of February and about five to six weeks before nomination, but I shall be giving it consideration.”

Mr Durkan's announced last Sunday that he intended to step down as leader in a move which took many of the SDLP's senior figures by surprise.

While the Foyle MP initially said he would stand down after the next General Election if he was re-elected to Westminster, the SDLP executive agreed on Thursday that Mr Durkan should go when the party's annual conference is due to take place in February. The executive also backed his proposal to bring the date for nominations for a new leader forward to November 1.

While Ms Ritchie's interest in the leadership is no surprise, SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell is emerging as the clear favourite to succeed Mr Durkan.

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