McDonnell wins first selection bout…

Despite a very strong challenge from Downpatrick based councillor Colin McGrath, It was former principal of St. Louis Grammar school in Kilkeel, Sean Rogers who won the day by just 14 votes out 239 cast becoming Margaret Ritchie’s replacement.

All other considerations aside, the geographic spread of the party’s MLAs now covers the southern (with sitting MLA, Karen McKevitt) and middle bands, with Margaret Ritchie covering the northern part as MP.

It gives the party an option for McGrath to pose a possible threat next time out. Promising start for McDonnell, who said he would start on candidate selection as a priority in his opening leaders speech.

  • Interestingly, Eamonn O’Neill who came third in the South Down race in May 2011 didn’t get it – not even sure if he was up for selection. There were definite shenanigans at the South Down count, with a call for a recount, and a rather frustrated Ruairi O’Kane appearing at one point to calm things down.

  • J Kelly

    Maybe big Al won the first battle but a retired school teacher is hardly the youthful, dynamic start that he promised. Schoolteachers Doctors and Lawyers Party are they now the Retired SDLP.

  • john

    Fair point J Kelly but if you look across the water all the main parties may as well be the Lawyers Solicitors and Barristers parties!

  • Barry the Blender

    Maybe big Al won the first battle but a retired school teacher is hardly the youthful,

    If the choice was between a former principal with several years’ life experience and one of the many children who’ve served their time in HQ, paraded by the two main parties, I know who I’d opt for.

  • Retired at 53 (with pension presumably?) and into a cushy one at Stormont. Handy work if you can get it.

  • quality

    Just what the Assembly needs – another middle aged man.

  • carnmoney.guy

    Now if we could just bring back the cane, there are some backsides up there that could do with a heating

  • iluvni

    yet another unelected MLA……

  • I think people are reading too much into it.
    In 1973 when the SDLP won three seats out of seven in the area, McGrady, O’Donoghue and Feely were based in Downpatrick, Newcastle and Newry.
    When SDLP selects three candidates since then it has usually been on that basis.
    In 2003 SDLP lost a seat here. It was sitting members Eamonn O’Neills who lost by about 50 votes to Margaret Ritchie. Since then the two seats (Ritchie/PJ Bradley and Ritchie/McKevitt) have been based around Downpatrick and Newry/Warrenpoint.
    The Necastle based folks therefore had a reasonable enough shout at getting the vacated seat as a co-option to balance and boost the Party standing against Willie Clarke…perceived rightly or wrongly as a weak link for Sinn Féin
    Remember as well that part of the Downpatrick end of the constituency was hived off to Strangford.
    From 2001 to 2011 I think he SDLP has lost no seat at Council level in Downpatrick. And I think actually gained a seat in Crotlieve DEA from 2005 to 2011.
    So at least is “holding”.
    With McKevitt only beating O’Neill by around 500 votes in 2011, there is a certain logic in boosting the mid Down area and raising the profile of a candidate.
    The balance of probability is that the three candidates who contest the next election will be balanced geographically ……with 35% of vote in 2011 (Margaret Ritchie, Party Leader got 20%) so a balanced ticket in a lot of ways is the better option to have a chance of taking three.

    As to the middle aged retired teacher “argument” well its hardly an argument at all.
    In footballing terms the SDLP has a good “senior” team” and a good “youth team” but for all kinds of reasons which are not relevant to this particular discussion but rather an internal one….the “reserve team” linking the two might be a problem. In that sense the SDLP actually needs people who are experienced without having long term ambitions.
    I must emphasise that I have never met Seán Rogers.

    Hes an ex-teacher……..Catholic Grammar School principal which could possibly mean that he probably relates to all those Catholic grammar school parents,the subject of much interest and debate on this very website.
    Presumably more in touch with feelings on selection/non selection than any “unionist outreach”.

    I dont know if Mr Rogers has any electoral form (I couldnt be bothered looking thru records but I dont recall any council activity) but perhaps in keeping with many, the nature of his previous employment did not lend itself to overt political activity……and his retirement allows a certain freedom. I am sure many of us can identify with that.

    Yet it sees to me that having a member of an (alleged!) caring profession like a teacher is actually a good thing. Rather than something to be mouthed as an ineffectual insult.
    The SDLP was arguably born at a very bad time over 40 years ago. I dont suppose those joining in 1970-1973 saw it as a great bandwagon of potential success. A lot of people (teachers like Paddy O’Donoghue, solicitors like Paddy Duffy, doctors like Raymond McClean) were prepared to put their shoulders to the wheel.

    Oh my God they were middle class.
    How awful.
    Yet there appears to be a parallel with 1971 and 2011. People joining and/or working for the SDLP are hardly motivated by the fact that it is a roaring success just now. Far from it.
    In school staff rooms, the Bar Library doctors surgeries, there are probably the same kinda public spirited people.

    Incidently the selection of Sean Rogers is hardly anything to do with Alasdair McDonnells candidate selection plans. Thats a far bigger project.
    This selection is everything to do with “house keeping” and getting closure on a train of events initiated by Margaret Ritchie. Last nights selection would have taken place under any leader.

  • Thanks due to a correspondent who advises me that Sean Rogers is a Councillor in Mournes DEA since May 2011.
    First timer?

  • Sean Og

    Sean Rogers was co-oped to Newry & Mourne Council in 2008 to replace the popular Mickey Cole who dropped dead refereeing a GAA match. He’s had a high enough profile locally since and was elected in May.

  • Sean Og

    Apparently Ms Ritchie is now refusing to leave the Assembly !!

    Her and former MP Eddie McGrady are sore that their nominated successor was defeated by Sean Rogers and she won’t resign. Mr Rogers is not a happy chap.

    Surely if she has the good of the party at heart she will want to give the new MLA as much time in post as possible to build his profile?

    Or maybe it’s a case of making things as difficult as possible for the new MLA and new Party leader? What ever happened to putting the good of the Party ahead of personnality clashes?