UPDATE-Hanna v McKinney-SDLP new MLA Fearghal McKinney!

Well the battle is on as Balmoral councillor Claire Hanna will face off against former UTV journalist Fearghal McKinney in a bid to replace Conall McDevitt.

Around 300 members of the South Belfast branch of the SDLP will gather to choose one of these two people to represent the constituency for the next three years.

My money is still on Claire Hanna to win the ballot. She brings everything that the SDLP wants going forward, youth, hard work, ideas and is another woman in what is a largely male dominated assembly group.

However I could be wrong. McKinney does have a good relationship with Alasdair McDonnell and could use this to win tomorrow evening.

Whoever the party chooses it will be an uphill struggle and with such a small margin in South Belfast the winner will have little room for error. The party needs somebody who can hit the ground running and not waste precious time trying to build up a profile.

Earlier in the week I posed the question, does the SDLP have a viable future? Perhaps tomorrow evening might give us some insight into whether it does.

 

Update-McKinney has given this interview to the Impartial Reporter

Here’s just a bit of what McKinney had to say about the upcoming ballot

A contest is a good thing and I am just looking forward to it. I am hugely encouraged by the reception I am getting in south Belfast. People recognise that I have worked hard for the party. We will wait and see if they value it sufficiently to select me.

 

BBC’s Martina Purdy reporting delegates at convention saying it will be close.

The turnout is above 250 delegates.

Fearghal McKinney was won the convention ballot-McKinney-113-Hanna-69

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs