Today brought the curtain down on Conall Mc Devitt’s short three and a half year run as an MLA. Always controversial and never boring McDevitt made a real impact on the political life of Northern Ireland.
The derision he endured over his southern roots were constantly used against him with labels like ‘the mouth from the south’ and the infamous moment on the Nolan Show when a woman told him to ‘keep his nose’ out of our business ignoring the fact that he was a northern public representative.
Yet rather than slow him down, the more criticism he appeared to get, the more vocal he appeared to become.
After less than two years as an MLA a poll of nearly 45% of the vote in the SDLP leadership contest is a testament to his broad appeal across the party. If they were honest with themselves how many other of our MLAs after just two years would even think about contesting the leadership of their parties?
To me McDevitt’s approach seemed to be either to crash through or just crash. Ultimately it was the latter. A rapid rise segued to a dramatic downfall in full public gaze.
The silence of many of his colleagues within the SDLP tells its own story.
Compare how the DUP rallied around Nelson McCausland or how Sinn Fein stood behind Conor Murphy, the internal support that McDevitt got was notably lacking.
Alasdair McDonnell’s statement tonight contained more than a touch Marc Anthony burying rather than praising a fallen general..
The South Belfast branch of the SDLP will now have to choose a successor in a highly marginal seat.
My own personal bet is on Balmoral Councillor Claire Hanna (daughter of former MLA Carmel Hanna). Hanna ticks a lot of boxes as she has roots in the constituency and a growing profile within the city.
You may have others? Whoever takes over, McDevitt has left a large void. Watch this space as the SDLP attempt to fill it.
Update-McDevitt confirms via Twitter he will not be returning to public life
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs