Attwood to become Social Development minister

So Alex Attwood reaps the rewards of being on the winning side of the SDLP’s leadership contest and takes on Margaret Ritchie’s ministerial post as the party leader, prepares relinquish some of her double jobbing duties. But when it comes to choosing between Westminister and Stormont, which way will she jump? No rush yet of course, since all of her nationist rivals solution to the dichotomy

  • slug

    Interesting choice. The SDLP can use this to raise Alex’s profile as a way of increasing SDLP vote share at next West Belfast Assembly Election where there is potential for upward movement.

  • snowstorm

    Stupid decision. Alex Atwwood is disliked by unionists, who the SDLP increasingly rely on for votes these days. As for increasing the vote in west Belfast Slug, I have to assume you are taking the piss. Under his watch the SDLP has shipped 13,000 votes in 9 nine years! There is no prospect of a second Assembly seat – so why invest that scarce resource, political capital, where it can have no pay off??

    Why not Patsy McGlone, Dominic Bradley, Pat Ramsay?

    Very, very poor judgement by Ritchie.

  • slug


    Alex Attwood is a fighter – he actively opposes SF which is what distinguishes MR from previous SDLP leaders.

    There is definitely room for a 2nd SDLP seat in West Belfast when you consider it has grown as a constituency under boundary review.

  • Granni Trixie

    From the SDLP’s point of view this is a good strategic decision, given they really need to retain WB. However, am surprised. Would have thought for saame reason Alban in North Belfast could do with higher profile to help retain his seat,plus he was the favoured one proposed by SDLP for Justice post.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Are you serious? One quota – end of story.

  • snowstorm

    How on earth is there room for a second seat with 16% share of the vote?

    The appointment can only be about retaining the 1 west Belfast seat, since two is impossible.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Grannie, Alban wasn’t at his count, at least not that I saw. I’m wondering if he’s thinking of jacking it all in.

  • Lionel Hutz

    His loyalty has been rewarded which is an interesting strategy in itself. SDLP has sometimes seemed divided which it seems to is Margaret Ritchie’s main concern. The public rebuff of a Fianna Fail pact and now this. I think that Patsy McGlone meanwhile will be doing alot more publicity. He is definately the most appealing SDLP MLA for that. Bradley is going nowhere.

    A raised profile could start to see Attwood gain votes in West Belfast. Social Housing is a big issue and if he does this right, he could be rewarded, besides the clock is ticking so far as Adams is concerned.

  • slug

    Excellent points. Adams is what 63 so he may only have one more GE in him.

  • outsidegawkingin

    I think Atwood is by far the better candidate than the 3 mentioned above.
    Slightly more annoying than the other 3 put together, but probably more able than the 3 put together.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Not McGlone. He’s a star if only he knew it

  • slug

    The SDLP do really have a fantastic talent now within their ranks. McGlone I agree is top class. Atwood excellent. And Mark Durkan is quite simply a great parliamentarian. Margaret Ritchie has had a very good start to her leadership. Not to mention some of the great younger candidates coming up.

  • Oracle

    Not a chance slug he’s viewed as “toxic”

  • Oracle

    Agreed 100% Snowstorm…. more SDLP foot shooting

  • jim

    your forgeting the court cases that will come before the election.

  • Oracle

    Slug stay off the drink…. it’s a fucking disaster of biblical porportions.

    I can only see a split in the SDLP now… the die is cast

  • Lionel Hutz

    Adams 63,
    Doherty 64 (hairdye?),
    McGuinness 59,
    Maskey 58,
    Kelly 57.

    Just putting that out there. No wonder they needed to “save Michelle”

  • Lionel Hutz

    After Murphy and Gildernew, who is gonna be leading Sinn Fein in 10 years time?

    Barry McElduff?

  • slug

    Gosh I hadn’t realised how much of a generation issue they have there. 5 years time it will become very clear.

  • Freya

    Lionel, I hope you’re being sarcastic! Ruane couldn’t lead a class of 5 year olds to the school canteen.

  • Michaelhenry

    a star with no shine, the epitaph of the S.D.L.P.

  • slug

    LOL. Ruane.

  • escargot

    Patsy McGlone is top class? A real star? The most appealing SDLP MLA?

    I guess I’ve been looking at the wrong Patsy McGlone.

    Good move by Ritchie, could show up Adams for his failures in West Belfast if Attwood really addresses the deprivation there.

  • Lionel Hutz


    You might be on to something, lol.

    This regeneration thing. Sinn Fein may well blood a new group. They do have a number of young MLAs. The problem is that many of the attempts have fallen flat. Ruane and Anderson haven’t worked.

    Which reminds me
    Mitchell McLaughlin 64

    The difficulty with the stage Sinn Fein are coming to is that these soon to retire reps are the ‘legends’ upon which their whole movement rests. Like Hume and Mallon, they irreplacable.

    With no faces and no policies where do Sinn Fein go

  • Lionel Hutz

    Poor Michael, poor poor Michael

  • Michaelhenry

    thats a poor reply, old hand.

  • slug

    Is O’Dowd their new leader?

  • Lionel Hutz

    To be fair, I forgot about him. But he will eventually have to do something

  • Lionel Hutz

    Not as old as the Sinn Fein leadership older hand

  • Oul Micky Hoot


    The SDLP are a nationalist party… opposing unionism is where they will gain votes.

  • Michaelhenry

    SINN FEIN leadership is more experienced than the S.D.L.P one, think this could be the next election slogan, thanks LIONEL HUTZ.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I thought it was their slogan this time?

    Next time they’ll be retired. Anyhow it will be nice to see SF all old and curmudgrony. You’ll have a hard time getting the youth vote then.

  • Michaelhenry

    leadership was the slogan, next time it will be leadership with experience, once again thanks.

  • Lionel Hutz

    You’re welcome, Michael old hand.

    Please draw attention to it.

  • Lionel Hutz

    May I also suggest that you could rent out an ulsterbus for the campaign. Afterall half your candidates will travel for free

  • Michaelhenry

    we are all free old hand.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Because of the old Shinners. The oh so very very old Shinners

  • Michaelhenry

    better late than never.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Insert last word here.

  • Michaelhenry

    the SINN FEIN leadership have another good 20 years yet, maybe more, onwards and upwards.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Life expectancy for males from West Belfast is 71.0

  • Michaelhenry

    the leadership is ALL IRELAND.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Life Expectancy in Glasgow is 70.5 years. Will you not let them retire

  • Michaelhenry

    IRELAND comes first, true for us as well as the leadership.

  • The Original Sam Maguire

    Lionel, asking who’s going to be leading any party in 10 years is like asking who are going to be the top 3 teams in the Championship in 10 years – apart from Kerry it is impossible to predict.

    10 years ago the bould miss Ritchie was a mere local councillor. How many people would have even speculated that? How many people would have speculated that someone like Marty Morgan wouldn’t be actively involved in the SDLP 10 years ago?

    To say that Anderson ‘hasn’t worked’ when she has been an elected official for only 3 years is somewhat disingenuous. For a rookie she’s done ok. Similarly with Daithi McKay – I don’t think he’s 30 yet and has is certainly on the ‘second-tier’ with Anderson as far as profile goes.

    But to get back on topic – for me, Attwood is crazy choice. Competent and a decent speaker perhaps, but completely unlikeable. McGlone, Dominic Bradley or even Conall but Attwood? Christ almighty, as my granny would have said – you couldn’t like him if you reared him

  • aquifer

    So can Alex do the dole differently?

    He had better be quick or David Cameron will do it for him

  • johnno

    Slug wrote,

    “Interesting choice. The SDLP can use this to raise Alex’s profile as a way of increasing SDLP vote share at next West Belfast Assembly Election where there is potential for upward movement.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever a more stupid comment in all my life.

    [play the ball – mods]

  • Salem

    I was present at the valley leisure centre and I can advise you that Alban was present for the count, the entire evening!

    I think this is a great decision by margaret – Alex is a fighter and will be great as a minister.

    The SDLP has great new talent coming through the ranks and we will see that in the Assembly and Council elections.

  • slug

    They have to oppose SF to get nationalist votes.

  • snowstorm

    “McGlone, Dominic Bradley or even Conall but Attwood?”

    It couldn’t have been Conall – he is not yet elected and not even Margaret Ritchie would have the political stupidity to promote an unelected new kid over the heads of the longer serving MLAs, some of whom are proven vote winners. Conall may be good on the blogs but he needs to get some votes to his name.

  • Scamallach

    Mick, had you had a couple of toots when you wrote this? The end of the first sentence is missing a few words and the last sentence is barely decipherable.

  • Brid Rodgers

    Margaret Ritchie has made a good decision. Alex Atwood will be an excellent minister. However the most interesting thing about all the comments so far is the pure male chauvinism. Dolores Kelly,one of the SDLP’s most articulate, able and charismatic Assembly members has not even got a mention. Shame on the lot of you.

  • Scamallach

    Fair play, Kelly is best the SDLP have. Awesome debater in the Assembly.

  • slug

    I agree about Kelly.

  • snowstorm

    Interesting intervention from Brid. Flag up the fact that no one has mentioned Dolores, than don’t recommend her!

    Sisters are doing it to themselves,

  • milo

    Sure hasn’t maskey already retired?

  • Oracle

    With the party leadership contest very close who has Ritchie surrounded herself with??? oh that’s right her own supporters.
    Leaders are supposed to lead by example not cause divisions and rub peoples noses in it.
    I wasn’t 100% sure Margret was the right choice… well now I’m 100% sure she was the wrong choice!

  • Oracle

    I think the time has come for sections of the SDLP to go their own way and get the FF band-wagon rolling before it’s too late and leave the dinosaurs in the party behind.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The point is that losing those iconic leaders has an inevitable effect. They are irreplacable. Sinn Fein will be just another party and people will ask the same question they asked of the SDLP when their iconic leaders left- Whats the point in Sinn Fein.

    The SDLP have had difficulty answering that questions and they actually have principles and policies. Sinn Fein don’t have these things, they just represent a move from radicalism to pragmatism.

  • Lionel Hutz

    That’s a bit mopey is it not. Too much discrimination against men. Lol.

    Kelly is good and she is the type of candidate who would have benefitted from DSD. The next election could easily seat SDLP get two ministers so the positions can be spread

  • Granni Trixie

    I never realised there were so many dreamers in the SDLP. Far better to adapt to being in anew phase – a small party which has to consolidate its position, then dream of expanding.

  • SDLP Man


    What a dopey remark! SDLP is still a helluva lot bigger than Alliance. Don’t let Naomi’s largely personal and well-deserved triumph make you lose the run of yourself.

    There are a few SDLP MLAs who need to take responsibility for ensuring that their constituency organisations are radically improved and I suspect that Margaret, who is a nuts-and-bolts person, will be metaphorically holding a few feet to the fire.

    The key to this is the non-performing councillors and quite a few of these should be politely shown the door and particularly if they were not active in the election. There are plety of able young people who could be put up for council.

    Incidentally, didn’t Cameron commit to taking away Sinn Fein’s parliamentary allowances? That would really go down with the Middle England vote and the knights in the shires. Over a five year parliamentary term, that could mean £3 million+ out of the SF budget.

  • snowstorm

    “There are a few SDLP MLAs who need to take responsibility for ensuring that their constituency organisations are radically improved and I suspect that Margaret, who is a nuts-and-bolts person, will be metaphorically holding a few feet to the fire.”

    A true comment, my point is that AA is one of those MLAs with an under performing constituencies. If holding someones feet to the fire includes making them a Minister, I’d hate to see her in bad form!

  • SDLP Man

    Can’t disagree with the comments on the poor state of the SDLP organisation in West Belfast, albeit can be a pretty intimidatory environment. WB SDLP need to learn from their South Belfast colleagues at the other end of Finaghy Road North: good regular activity between elections, newsletters and leaflets, door-knocking and, above all, recording voter allegiances in permanent form. It’s daft to go out canvassing blind without a marked register, just knocking at doors without any idea of the voters’ previously-declared allegiances.

    When you canvass blind, and get abuse from a few doors, it just demoralises new canvassers. The SDLP future is in some of the 45% who don’t vote in WB and an SDLP version of the “Torrent strategy”.

    WB is going to be a quite different place in the next few years as the SF grant plutocracy and the cadre of those who are employed in cushy non-jobs are put under pressure, IFI and EU monies wound down, etc.

    Having said that, Alex Attwood is a very bright guy who runs rings around Sinn Fein opponents in the Assembly and committees. I assume that’s what he’s getting rewarded for. He just needs to get his organisation right.

  • Beebop

    I have to say I agree with some of the comments above. There is definitely work to be done in the WB branch and everyone knows it. Alex himself would be the first to admit that more work is needed. However, given the domination of SF in all elements of the constituency (including that local ‘newspaper’/SF propaganda outlet) it is difficult for the SDLP to wade through the SF mire. Nevertheless, this appointment will give Alex the opportunity to continue Ritchie’s good work and progress in the constituency on the issues that matter to the people, especially social housing. I say, good luck to him. Afterall, the local MP isn’t going to tackle the local issues…he is more interested in self-promotion and building the cult of Mao Gerry

  • The FFers ARE the dinosaurs.

  • union mack

    Can’t stand him, but you are right – why may explain the ire of many Sinn Fein members towards him. He could do with dropping the patronising public persona and he’d do a lot better

  • Oracle

    Delusional Delusional Delusional

    If that’s your take on the future of West Belfast SDLP man pack in politics… the SDLP is finished in the West because they are seen as losers by the entire electorate!

    It will take a new brand to oust the Sinn Fein addiction from the viens of the voters in West Belfast and the SDLP ain’t it, but especially Alex he’s tarnished with the loser stain to badly to repair, and lets face it he isn’t worth repairing is he?

  • Granni Trixie

    Like many indicate, AA presentation annoying. But then i remember how difficult it must be to sustain as MLA in WB.
    so fair dues.

    Was always surprised that his old running mate, Mgt.Walsh who actually lives in the lower falls,lost her councillors seat. Not sure the SDLP really appreciated her talents/credentials either.

  • slug

    Yes there are 3 things:

    *banning double jobbing which will affect SF as they all do it.
    *removing allowances
    *elections to new House of Lords. This is another election that SF abstains from.

    End of double jobbing makes abstension policy more absurd.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Will a ban actually prevent a Sinn Fein MLA from standing

  • Sean Og

    The poster claiming to be Brid Rodgers is either an imposter or the real Brid has never met Dolores Kelly or heard her speak.

    “Dolores Kelly,one of the SDLP’s most articulate, able and charismatic Assembly members”

    Now that is worth repeating!

  • Beebop

    I understand that Alex’s presentation style is, at times, irritating. But we need to halt this move towards style over substance. We do not have a presidential system and we do not elect charismatic populists. We need to elect people who have the skills and knowledge to tackle the real issues. In terms of Alex having a loser tag…maybe you are right but surely it is to his credit that he has continued to work hard in the constituency despite all the criticisms levelled at him. Regardless, this appointment is an opportunity…only time will tell whether it makes a difference. A running mate in WB is a good idea though.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I believe that this is a good decision by Maragret Ritchie. Although I find Atwood annoying they really need to keep this seat in West Belfast. Does anyone remember Hughie Smith of the PUP telling him “to stop his yapping wee lad” at Belfast city council a number of years ago? Yes he definately can be annoying.

    I’m not a big fan of the SDLP’s backing of the 50/50 on police recruitment as I believe that it is discrimanates against protestants. At the same time I like Ritchie and though I’m a unionist I would have voted for her if I lived in South Down just to keep that excuse for a politician Ruane out. I was also pleased that she kept her party out of a pact with Sinn Fein. I also like the way she is not frightened to call this part of the UK by its proper title. It doesn’t make her less of a nationalist and I believe the unionists of South Down have a politician who will represent everyone in the constituency.

    They ran a decent candidate in Strangford and although they have no chance of winning a Westminster seat they might be able to squeeze out Alliance at the Stormont elections. Saying that, the elections well over and she really needs to take down her posters in Newtownards or they will end up on a few bonfires on the 11th night.

  • Granni Trixie

    Alan: would (genuinely) be interested in which consituencies you think the SDLp has potrential of sqeezing out Alliance? You mention Strangford but Kieran McCarthy is a popular local MLA for Alliance for instance.

  • brendan

    There is an Assembly seat in Strangford for the SDLP. There is no 2nd seat for the party in West Belfast though.

  • Granni Trixie

    Was shocked this morning reviewing the posts above – a new level in rude remarks about individuals (johonno in particular). Get a grip. The only way is down at this rate.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I haven’t really given much thought to any other constituencies. I agree with you that Kieran McCarthy is a well like and respected MLA. I have met Kieran on a number of occassions and have the highest regard for him. He is a genuine person who works extremely hard in Strangford. In fact you would see Kieran personally delivering the Alliance news sheet to homes in Strangford. If he is standing next year for Stormont my wife and I are considering giving him our first preference as we are really scundered with unionism at the moment.

    I don’t think that the SDLP will squeeze Kieran out but he will not be around for ever. He must be in his 60s and Alliance appear to have no one in Strangford who is high profile enough to follow in his foot steps.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I posted this on another thread but its probably more appropriate here.
    The real point about SDLP getting down to business is the fast tracking/over promotion (delete as applicable) of Conall McDevitt to the Chair of the Enterprise Committee.
    A few months back I suggested that the SDLP was obviously in need of internal reform but seemed enthralled by “New Labour” methodology.
    Quite rightly it was pointed out to me that “New Labour” wasnt a complete disaster.
    Yet McDevitt strikes me as the Lord Mandelson (Miliband and Balls) of the new SDLP and the present furore over his selection ahead of such go getters as PJ Bradley, Dolores Kelly and Tommy Gallagher seems to mirror a rift between old and new.
    I might also point out that McDevitt is unelected….just like Mandy.
    McDevitts background is not local councils. Its PR. and God knows SDLP needs a good publicity machine but it would be a shame if it lost its roots in the community. South Belfast is of course the most “rootless” constituency anyway.
    Ive taken most opportunities on this Site to say that Alban Magennis will be Lord Chief Justice (or similar big law job) and eventually I will be right……but it would be a shame if he was overlooked for McDevitt.
    Likewise Declan O’Loan and Dominic Bradley, for whom I have respect.
    Yet it strikes me that TWO people are fast tracking McDevitt. Margaret Ritchie and McDevitt himself. To his credit he was the only SDLP rank and filer at the recent Workers Memorial Day (the first occasion on which Ive actually spoken to him). Seemed a nice guy but too anxious to make an impression.

    Let me say straight off that I like Alex Attwood. He is a much better person than many of those who dislike him with a passion which borders on hatred.
    He thoroughly deserves his promotion.
    With deference to Ms Rodgers, I do realise that Dolores Kelly (a very able member of Craigavon Council) is a protege but Kelly has presided over a decline of the SDLP vote (24% in 1998) to 13% now. She is no Brid Rodgers.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Difficult to say in relation to McCarthy. Is he actually standing next time round.
    I note from the “ARK” site that the AP vote last week in Strangford fell from 10.1% to 8.7%. Frankly I feel this is unkind to AP as to me the adjusted figures for new boundaries looks too high (2007 and earlier).
    The only real figures for 2010 look interesting.
    Conceivably the 8.7% would have been better (say 10-11%) but for some tactical voting for Nesbitt.
    The combined Nationalist vote 10.3% is certainly higher than AP (but SDLP only scord 6.7%). Probably a certain apathy there as well.
    Either way there seems that at ASSEMBLY level there is a safe AP quota. Although McCarthy has I understand SDLP family connexions along the Peninsula.
    There is also a nationalist quota to be worked on.