SDLP grassroots in East Derry are divided over the party's selection of Cara Hunter to replace the late John Dallat at Stormont.
The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that both the former MLA's daughter, Councillor Helena Dallat O'Driscoll, and another local councillor, Stephanie Quigley, had sought the nomination.
Ms Quigley, who has been a councillor for seven years, did not secure an interview. Ms Hunter and Ms Dallat O'Driscoll, who were both elected as councillors last year, were interviewed via Zoom.
Mr Dallat (73), who was diagnosed with cancer last year, died a fortnight ago. He was first elected to the Assembly in 1998.
The interview panel to choose his replacement consisted of party chairman and South Down MLA Colin McGrath, chief whip and Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly, and former SDLP general secretary Gerry Cosgrove.
The party announced on Sunday that Ms Hunter had been selected. Supporters of both Ms Dallat O'Driscoll and Ms Quigley expressed their disappointment.
In a statement last night, Mr McGrath said: "The SDLP is delighted to have selected an energetic, passionate and impressive candidate as the next MLA for East Derry.
"Cara Hunter has a deep understanding of the issues people face in East Derry and she returned an outstanding performance in the Westminster election in December, adding almost 2000 votes to the SDLP total.
"The party understands that this will have caused disappointment for those who were not successful.
"We value all of our members and public representatives and the contribution they make. We're looking forward to continuing to grow in East Derry."
Ms Hunter is deputy mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council. Following her selection, she said: "It is an incredible honour to be selected to represent the people of East Derry and to follow in the footsteps of someone like John Dallat.
"John dedicated his life to public service and I know just how much he loved representing people here.
"I hope that I can continue that tradition of being a champion for everyone in East Derry.
"This is an incredibly difficult time for people, businesses and communities here.
"The impact of the coronavirus has been immense, it has caused pain for us all and it has underscored how little the things that divide us actually matter.
"This virus doesn't see a difference between people in Coleraine or Kilrea, and neither should we.
"We all have to unite and come together as one community to keep each other safe."
Warm tributes were paid from politicians across the divide to Mr Dallat following his death.