Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill not intimidated by leadership challenge

Michelle O’Neill is facing a challenge from John O’Dowd.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill is facing a challenge for her position (PA)
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill is facing a challenge for her position (PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland says she is not concerned about a challenge to her position.

Michelle O’Neill has served as the party’s vice president since February 2018 but will face a challenge at the party’s ardfheis (high assembly) in Londonderry in November by party rival John O’Dowd.

Mr O’Dowd made his intentions public last week, after telling his party colleagues. He did not inform Ms O’Neill personally.

“The first thing to say is all of our leadership positions are re-elected every year by the membership at the ardfheis, so I don’t think it’s any surprise at all,” Mrs O’Neill said at a media event on Saturday.

“John’s put his name forward and he’s absolutely entitled to do so, that’s the nature of democracy in the party.

There's nothing to fear in any of this, this is how the party works, every year the Sinn Fein leadership is elected, we re-elect the Ard Chomhairle every single year Mary Lou McDonald

“John will go to the membership as will I. I’ll ask for a refreshed mandate, we’ve a lot of work to do, not least because of the politics we’re dealing with at this moment in time, but it’ll be the membership who decide.”

There had also been speculation about leader Mary Lou McDonald’s position in the party after a poor result in the European and local elections, however Ms McDonald said it is up to the party members to decide who should lead.

“There’s nothing to fear in any of this, this is how the party works, every year the Sinn Fein leadership is elected, we re-elect the Ard Chomhairle every single year,” Ms McDonald said.

“As party leader, I need to ensure that any contest is inclusive and fair and I will respect the outcome and opinion of the party membership.

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Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (PA)

“We’ve got a very full schedule, we’re going into elections, Brexit is looming now in a very real way.

“We’re very busy, but we’re looking forward to the ardfheis.

“It would not be appropriate for me to endorse a particular candidate (for deputy), given there will be a contest and a vote.

“I think everybody will be judged on their record, John will set out his stall and so will Michelle. There will be a debate and the membership will decide.

“All of us are in the hands of the membership, that’s how Sinn Fein works – we’re unique in that respect.”

PA

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