Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd has 'no regrets' over deputy leadership challenge

John O’Dowd (Liam McBurney/PA)
John O’Dowd (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Eimear McGovern

John O'Dowd has said he has "no regrets" after he failed in his attempt to unseat Michelle O'Neill as Sinn Fein's deputy president.

The former Stormont education minister signalled his ambition to replace Ms O’Neill to this newspaper in August.

At the party’s ard fheis in Londonderry on Friday and Saturday party delegates cast their ballots over the two days event, with Ms O’Neill confirmed as the winner on Saturday evening.

Mr O’Dowd’s move for the role had been seen by some as controversial for a party which does not usually see internal divisions played out in public.

However, the party always said it was a democratic organisation and welcomed a debate around its leadership. However, many noted the muted campaign run by Mr O’Dowd and the unwillingness of many to talk about the matter.

There hae been unconfirmed reports that the Upper Bann MLA polled strongly in the contest.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I congratulate Michelle [O’Neill] on winning and I support and endorse what party members have done.”

The party has said it will review the process of its election after criticism it did not reveal the winning margin involved.

The results of the review will be presented to members before next year’s ard fheis.

Mr O’Dowd said he would support the review.

“I have observations to make as I would after any election so I’ll make my observations and we’ll move on from here,” he said.

Speaking after retaining her position as deputy president of Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill said: “I am really honoured to have been endorsed by the membership of Sinn Fein and re-elected to the position of Leas-Uachtaran.

“I am thankful to delegates and members across Ireland who voted for me in this contest.”

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