Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: Sinn Fein leadership contenders O'Neill and O'Dowd come face to face at party gathering

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd (left) with leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre), and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (right), before a party away day at the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa: Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd (left) with leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre), and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (right), before a party away day at the Carrickdale Hotel and Spa: Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire

It was all smiles as Sinn Fein leadership contender John O'Dowd faced party rival Michelle O'Neill at a party gathering.

John O'Dowd sent shockwaves when he admitted exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph he would challenge for the deputy leadership of the party at the Novembers Ard Fheis.

It has been viewed as a sign of unease among the grassroots at the current direction of the party leadership.

The party has a long history of keeping a lid on internal matters and of unity among the ranks and some have viewed an open leadership contest as at odds with how it would like to operate.

Both Ms O'Neill and Mr O'Dowd were at an annual party gathering in Dundalk.

President Mary Lou McDonald said it was normal party politics their contest to become the party's leader in Northern Ireland.

She said: "We are a united party.. we elect our ard comhairle... our officers... our leaders .. and we get cracking because there is lots of hard work to be done."

Michelle O'Neill also played down the forthcoming contest.

The MLA said: "John is my comrade, John is perfectly entitled to challenge, it is not an issue of being hurt or offended..this is politics.

"We are an open and transparent party and the membership will decide the outcome of that election."

Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said nothing on the matter since he confirmed he would contest the position.

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