Irish Republican News · September 8, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Margaret Ritchie to quit as SDLP leader

The leader of the smaller of the two nationalist parties in the North of Ireland is to stand down, it was announced this afternoon.

Margaret Ritchie was elected leader in January 2010 but has been under pressure following the party’s poor performance in the assembly elections in May.

At the beginning of August, party deputy leader Patsy McGlone said he would be challenging her leadership at the party conference in November.

The SDLP has struggled with leadership problems since the resignation in 2001 of its former leader (and Nobel prizewinner) John Hume and its former deputy leader Seamus Mallon.

Ms Ritchie has said that she did not feel it was possible to be an MP, an Assembly member and lead a political party.

She will stand down as an Assembly member for South Down.

Ms Ritchie said being leader of the SDLP and the member of the British parliament for south Down were both all-consuming jobs.

She said she had to ask herself “what is my first love in politics?”

“My first love in politics is delivering for the great people of South Down.”

When Mr McGlone’s challenge was first reported, Ms Ritchie said she was prepared to take on all challengers.

She said today she had now reflected on that position and would also be standing down as an Assembly member.

Ms Ritchie said she would not criticise any of her colleagues and wished whoever succeeded her all the best.

She said they would have her support so long as they served the best interests of the SDLP.


Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson today said he would not accede to calls for his immediate resignation.

Hutchinson had been under renewed pressure to quit following a report which revealed he had helped to cover up police misdeeds over previous killings and atrocities in the North of Ireland.

Today, he told an Assembly committee he would not leave before June of next year. He had previously indicated he would quit on his 65th birthday, in December of next year.

Hutchinson told the Assembly’s Justice Committee he wanted to stay on until next June “to implement reforms” and to allow the authorities in the North of Ireland time to find a successor.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News