Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill tipped to triumph in battle for Sinn Fein leadership

Michelle O'Neill
Michelle O'Neill
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill is expected to "resoundingly win" a leadership contest next week, several party members have claimed.

Mrs O'Neill is up for re-election at next weekend's ard fheis in Londonderry, with Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd also standing.

Sean Crowe, TD for Dublin South-West, told The Times newspaper: "I expect her to win it overwhelmingly." While Cork East TD Pat Buckley predicted that "she'll walk it".

Eoin O Broin, TD for Dublin Mid-West, said: "Michelle will win hands down, though I would have preferred if there had been hustings. I'm supporting Michelle. I think she's doing a good job."

Michelle Gildernew, MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, was the most high-profile party member to back Mr O'Dowd and said the competition showed the leadership was "not taking grass-roots supporters for granted".

In a party known for long-serving leaders, there was surprise at Mr O'Dowd's challenge as Mrs O'Neill was championed by ex-party president Gerry Adams and her predecessor Martin McGuinness, who died in 2017.

The Times reported that Sinn Fein's popularity has "waned" since Mary Lou McDonald took over as leader without contest in February 2018.

This includes losing two of its three European Parliament seats and 78 council seats in the Republic. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein's vote share dropped by almost 1% in May's council elections and over 3% in the European election.

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