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Ritchie:I’m ready to defend SDLP seat

By Noel McAdam

New SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie is ready to defend the party’s South Down seat in Parliament vacated by veteran MP Eddie McGrady, it was confirmed yesterday.

Just under three weeks after replacing Mark Durkan Ms Ritchie indicated she is willing to go forward for selection as the SDLP candidate in the constituency — the safest seat the party has.

And she vowed if she retains the seat against an anticipated challenge from Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane, she will step down as Social Development Minister.

She told a Press conference in Downpatrick that while remaining as both an Assembly Member and MP, she would only take one salary.

Ms Ritchie anticipates criticism after Mr Durkan relinquished the leadership — to the consternation of colleagues — in part to bring double-jobbing to an end. The Foyle MP told colleagues he had never intended to remain as party leader after his 50th birthday, which falls in June, though rumours over the circumstances of his surprise resignation last September have continued.

Ms Ritchie said it was up to the party’s South Down association to decide who will be nominated, but she was willing to go forward, and is favourite.

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