Nichola Mallon in frame to become SDLP's next deputy leader
Newly-elected North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon is favourite to become the next SDLP deputy leader.
As the SDLP deputy must be an MLA, Fearghal McKinney lost the position when he failed to get elected in South Belfast.
Now Ms Mallon is being tipped for the role. One SDLP insider said: "Given that we have a male leader, it's important that a female fills the position.
"Nichola would be the right woman for the job. She has been an elected representative for several years and, as a former SDLP special adviser at Stormont, she knows her way around the place.
"As Colum is from Derry, it's better if the deputy leader is from east of the Bann. Nichola is a North Belfast MLA so she fills that criteria too. She's young and articulate, and she and Colum would make a strong team."
Ms Mallon (36) said last night: "The deputy leadership is an issue the party will look at in coming weeks. At the moment, we're all standing with Fearghal."
It was initially thought that South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna might run for the position. However, party sources said she had expressed no interest in the position.