McKinney challenge against Kelly for Deputy Leadership confirmed

I missed this two days ago but the MLA for South Belfast, Fearghal McKinney will be challenging the sitting Deputy Leader Dolores Kelly for the deputy leadership of the SDLP.

McKinney is an ally of the current leader, Alasdair McDonnell. He first ran for the party in 2010 for the Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency and was selected to replace Conall McDevitt as the MLA for South Belfast in 2013. He sits on the Health Committee at Stormont.


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  • Ernekid

    It’s looking pretty unlikely that the SDLP will win back their 2 seats in South Belfast. There’s a good chance that they’ll lose at least one seat if not both. McKinney might be deputy leader but he might not be an MLA. He’s never won an election and his seat that was won by McDevitt just about got the sixth seat on transfers in 2011.

  • I suspect there is many in the SDLP wondering what their party’s coming to, given the fact that there is a candidate vying for the deputy leadership role who’s political record begins with the 2010 Westminster election, garnering a measly 7.6% vote share in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, followed by being parachuted into South Belfast in 2013 to be become an unelected MLA.

    I struggle to see how Fearghal McKinney can credibly campaign to be deputy leader in light of his non-existent mandate, as well as the dubious security of the SDLP’s second MLA seat in South Belfast, with he being the likely one to lose out should the party go down to 1 MLA in the constituency.

  • Granni Trixie

    Could it be chicken and egg? By that I mean could his throwing his hat in ring for deputy be a way of gathering publicity prior to next Stormont election? Or could it be i
    that he is following instructions from Big Al – he owes him. Al might want to get back at Delores for supporting Eastwood against him. Too conspiratorial?

  • chrisjones2

    Pillows at dawn in the dorm?

  • Gaygael

    The SDLP have a solid safe safe. It’s the second one at risk. To green, alliance or DUP.

    I think that’s part of what the pitch is, and that if alisdair holds on, he will have moved his right hand man in deputy. It looks like the wings of the SDLP are drawing lines.

  • Kevin Breslin

    As I’ve said before Claire Bailey’s not really in the race. Agnew only got in in North Belfast with a low turnout and 45% of the vote. Added to the fact that North Down is primarily DUP, UUP, Alliance only. I don’t think that DUP, SDLP, Alliance, Sinn Féin and UUP voters, or other voters beside the Green Party will be apathetic over here.

    I’ve met Claire in person, I’ve no vendetta against her, or the Green Party but the Green Party didn’t win a seat at council election, nor did her party colleague. I think the DUP have won 4, SDLP, UUP, Alliance won 3 seats, Sinn Féin 2 in the Council Elections and Green Party 0 in South Belfast. A second UUP or Sinn Féin candidate is more of a threat to the SDLP’s second seat by that measure than the Green Party.

    It’s wishful thinking to believe the electorate is going to massively change and that Claire can get in without a huge grassroots effort that her party hasn’t been able to muster before.In an Assembly party-diehards will come out more as trends will show that.
    Ross Brown in the East of the City might be the one to look at.

    The only thing you have to suggest her contention is that the SDLP were under pressure here as if it were some sort of political scandal to actually have to work harder for an election. Voters will not look badly on politicians needing to work harder to get elected.

    In a highly competitive contest like South Belfast the quota will simply be too high for the Green Party to get over. My guess is that Alliance might move Judith Cochrane or Chris Little from the East alongside Paula Bradshaw, and stick the other alongside Naomi Long. Anna Lo won’t contest.

    UUP could throw Jeffrey Dudgeon into the contest and it would be a sensible move against the DUP’s (center)right-wing leaning ticket of Pengelly and Stalford, though McGimpsey still would be left of center enough for the UUP to keep this seat safe.

    We might also see Ruth Paterson entering the race, whether this helps or harms the DUP cause is anyone’s guess.

  • mjh

    You could be onto something with your first explanation, Granni.

    Indeed that might also be part of the motivation for the timing of Eastwood’s bid. With three seats no longer absolutely safe in Foyle he too may feel that the exposure could be helpful, while winning would both guarantee him a bigger share of the SDLP votes and possibly help shore up that third seat.

  • Granni Trixie

    She’s gone! Plus Judith Cochrane has stated she s standing down. Rethink?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well Alliance have 3 Councillors (one being Paula Bradshaw (correct me if I’m wrong), who is odds on to get one of the nods), and another Council candidate to pick from in South Belfast. I’d imagine it’d be one of their remaining three council nominations instead.

    Naomi Long and Chris Little in East Belfast, I guess.

    And for the record I meant Ruth Paterson as an independent candidate off the DUP ticket. If she does stand she might be considered more of a spoiler than a sweeper for the DUP, but given political apathy she might get a few transfers from her personal vote to them to keep the two DUP candidates in the contest.

  • Granni Trixie

    Just for the record the way selection works in APNI is that there is an election at local constituency level. It’s not in the gift of pEople at the top to ‘give a nod’.
    Overall democracy is expected in a modern party but the price you pay is that there is lack of strategic control.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I merely meant that the party (by means of the constituency council) gives the “nod” to their selection … The reason I used “nod”, was because I had originally put seat, and of course parties don’t determine who wins a seat but the electorate of the constituency do.

    I apologize for any allusions that the Alliance party would be pulling the Democratic Unionist Party’s tricks here. Never thought that was the case for a moment.

    Maybe they would’ve or could’ve done so in their political infancy, but that’s a lot more understandable.

    The British Labour Party have an incumbent fights again rule automatically, but I was sure Naomi Long as MP stood again before the party’s East Belfast members for selection even if it was a near formality she’d win.

    I am quick to point out that Alasdair McDonnell and the SDLP leadership didn’t decide the three SDLP co-options in South Belfast (Conall McDevitt vs. Bernie Kelly, Fearghal Mc Kinney vs. Claire Hanna and Claire Hanna by default), nor indeed the outcome of his own South Belfast nomination.

    So I imagine Alliance, Sinn Féin, the UUP (ahem with the obvious exception of ignoring David McClarty) and the Green’s have a similar system.

    What does make me wonder is why Alliance are leaving their nominations so late when the DUP and SDLP ones are already known. Are they still pondering the one candidate or two candidate quandary?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The mandate would be given by the party not the electorate.

    If the people were elected to choose the political leaders of party those who oppose them politically would make a mockery of it: e.g. Jamie Bryson would be leading Sinn Féin and Anna Lo would be leading the DUP.

    The Ulster Unionists don’t even have a deputy leader.

    Pat Doherty deputy president of Sinn Féin to Gerry Adams managed a mere 3.9% in Donegal North East during 1989. Where was his mandate?

    Mary Lou lost her MEP seat and wasn’t even a TD when she became deputy president of Sinn Féin. She wasn’t elected at the time of her nomination (unless she was a Councillor). Where was her mandate?

    Naomi Long is deputy leader of Alliance, she’s not an MP or a Councillor or an MLA at this time.

    You don’t need to be elected representative to be in a party executive.

    I don’t see Fearghal being any less appealing to the South Belfast electorate than Alasdair McDonnell is. Alasdair’s mandate in North Antrim was a mere 7.4% back in 1970, once in South Belfast he managed to grow it.

    Paula Bradshaw lives in South Antrim, Maskey lived in West Belfast, Jonathan Bell was parachuted in from Stranford, Claire Hanna contested an election going the other way. Rodney McClune I think lives in South Antrim too I think. There’s a possible argument that rather than Fearghal being parachuted in, he was originally parachuted out to stand in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

    Was Martin McGuinness born in Mid Ulster, is that the seat he originally contested?

    Or Gerry Adams in Louth?

  • Granni Trixie

    That would be telling but you’ll soon know.
    I believe that with system in UUP whilst candidates are selected by local constituencies, the Leader actually takes their pick from that. Any modern party worth its salt would not tolerate this. As for the DUP system….

  • Gaygael

    Ok you disagree that greens have a shot. That’s fine.

    Across South Belfast in 2014 the greens got around 1300 votes. In a tight Westminster FPTP higher turnout, that went up to 2238 and 5.7%. I expect that to be higher in STV. There are a significant number of SDLP votes that only stayed to keep out the DUP. Alliance, green and MOM will have their eyes on those.
    As I stated, the last time, expect those secondary alliance, DUP and SDLP candidates to be around 8-10%. Last time quota was 4616 and turnout was 52.4%.
    At Westminster it went up to 60.3% on an increased electorate like roll.

    I expect alliance to nominate Bradshaw and mcdonagh brown. Not sure re UUP. Either McCune or McGimpsey. UKIP are here too, more that I expect their 6% or so to return home to UUP and hence secure the UUP seat. But Ruth……. Will she be persuaded to TUV? I’m fully expecting Bob Stoker to stand for UKIP.
    I hope too that Ross is in with a shot in east.

  • Gaygael

    Is it not the party decides on number of candidates, then local party chooses that number of candidates. 2 in South Belfast and potentially 3 in east. Party then ratify?

  • Granni Trixie

    Can’t speak for other parties but an Alliance committee dealing
    with political organisation consults with local associations and together they agree numbers to stand based on previous results etc. Then it has to be ratified.
    It is open to any member to go forward for election to the political organisation committee plus a few party officers join it. The aim is to get consensus.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’ve spotted one wrong prediction. But will tease you by not sayng which!

  • Gaygael

    Duncan morrow? Interesting. A green pipped him in botanic in 2014 in a five seater.
    Plus we have Ruth to consider.

  • Granni Trixie

    No, there are many hats in the ring. As for Ruth. Would be interesting if she goes indeoemdent – would split the DUP vote.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think there is a lot of unproven speculation going on that goes against trends in Belfast. Even if you completely dismiss the SDLP as being as 6 opinion points higher than they deserve to be. Why doesn’t that logic apply to the DUP?

    You are effectively talking about or even wishing more Green voters voting for McDonnell than for Claire Bailey, then why didn’t they vote for Claire Bailey in the first place?

    Effectively you are saying the Green Party with its votes leant to SDLP are bigger than the UUP. If that’s the case maybe the UUP is in trouble?

    And even if that were the case, then in that situation SDLP transfers of SDLP 2 would be exhausted putting SDLP 1 in and suring up Máirtín, as would be the case of Alliance … And the DUP split with the fringe unionists and perhaps conservative elements of the Alliance Party and the SDLP would easily put their two candidates well ahead of Bailey on say 10%… Unless of course you are going to say there was another thousand greens within the vote of Jonathan Bell?

    If the DUP get 20%, SDLP 16% Alliance 16%, UUP 10, UKIP 6, SF 13 and the Green Party about 8% in this scenario in the first count … You have 2 candidates 2 percentage points ahead and 4 behind the quota …. UKIP goes out , UUP/DUP goes to 36. Alliance 2 goes out Alliance win seat and being generous 2 points go to Bailey, SDLP go out SDLP win seat, 1 goes to MoM one goes to Bailey, MoM wins a seat.

    You’d have DUP 12, DUP 12, UUP 12, GP 12 and the parties left to push these groups over the line are loyalists like the PUP and TUV.

    Result goes DUP 2 UUP 1 SDLP 1 Alliance 1 SF 1… which is simply DUP gain from SDLP, not Green Party or Alliance.

    Bailey is facing the “Cerberus effect” from the secondary candidates here … two big heads in the SDLP and DUP, with a smaller APNI head to look out for.

    If the SDLP implode like you seem to suggest then there’s nowhere to get transfers from, they would’ve already transferred their first preference anyway, leaving the Greens with nothing in the later stages of the count.

    You’ve created three separate aberrations to dismiss these three parties ever having more than double the Green Party vote in an Assembly election, when they all nearly trebled her vote in the Westminster contest.

    You’ve given no reason as to why the DUP vote would collapse and even if it did, not go to non-unionists who wouldn’t just give their vote back to them at a later stage of the count.

    There is probably around 5-8% of a poll in UKIP/TUV/PUP, so it that’s turnout is high … South Belfast’s “unionist majority” would take 3/6 seats, Nationalists and Alliance their 3/6 safe seats with the Green Party and any SDLP & Alliance surplus all eliminated.

    In Summary, Bailey would need to get transfers from UKIP and loyalist working class estates at the expense of three lead unionist contenders, not simply rely on the SDLP vote to stay at home, which has the moderate benefit of lowering the quota but the knock on effect of helping a third unionist (or indeed a fourth given Bradshaw is a unionist) take a seat here.

  • mjh

    OK Granni I’ll bite.
    Bradshaw and Rice for South?
    McDonagh-Brown for West?

  • Gaygael

    I will reply later when at home. You obviously don’t really read what I say.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I feel you’re double counting the SDLP swing to the Green Party firstly giving their first preferences to the Greens … then coming back later to provide transfers later in the count.

    Of course Claire Bailey has a chance if SDLP and Alliance voters could vote twice this way. It also helps that the DUP somehow can’t do that.

    Claire Bailey winning on the basis of pessimism about the SDLP is not going to happen. The most optimistic and the most pessimistic opinions on the SDLP aren’t going to do the Green Party any good. Their success can’t depend on other party’s fortunes.

    Pessimissm about the SDLP, simply puts SDLP voters on the armchair, lowering the quota making a hell of a lot easier for the DUP to capitalize. People who give up on parties need to be caught, and we see with lowering turnouts that for the most part parties across the board aren’t catching them.

    If pessimism about the SDLP helped anyone, where was it when Alasdair McDonnell won the seat? Or when Mark Durkan won Foyle defying expectations by increasing his vote. Voters are turned off by pessimism not turned on by it.
    This lesson doesn’t seem to sink in to people.

    As mathematician I wouldn’t rule Claire Bailey out completely, (I wouldn’t rule out the Natural Law Party or Pro-Capitalism) but it’s highly improbable and unprecedented, it’d beat Agnew’s and Wilson’s win by some distance.

    If she were to do it, she couldn’t rely on the SDLP and Alliance transfers to bring her through. If Sinn Féin have any, they probably won’t have many. Nor the smaller left-wing groups (WP, PBPA, SP, SWP even Éírígí) who didn’t stand against her at Westminster, and who’s voters may have lent her their vote back then, might not really provide that much.

    Alliance making political capital at the SDLP’s expense, is at the Green Party’s expense too, pushing their vote higher than the Greens.

    She’d need a massive help from the unionist/loyalist fringe, that is the critical element in the perfect storm she needs. They are a big part of the final 6th and 7th heptiles, particularly if apathy drains voters and transfers from the SDLP or if either Alliance 2 or the SDLP 2 are floating around at the final count.

  • I have a general preference for candidates having some sort of personal connection with the constituency, rather than being transferred into areas simply to pursue a political career more conveniently. I would apply the criticism I make of McKinney to the others you mentioned also.

    McKinney can sure enough be the SDLP’s deputy leader if he wins the race amongst party members, but that’s not my point. I simply hold that without some sort previous electoral mandate, a candidate lacks credibility to the wider electorate. I wasn’t suggesting a kind of primary election.

    McKinney’s problem, however, is more specific. In 2009, he was still a UTV journalist. Today, he wants to become the SDLP’s second in command. To swoop so quickly up the party hierarchy, he needs to at least be able to cite some sort of electoral success to tenably hold the position, which he of course can’t.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You can’t tell the future … there’s no such thing as a wrong prediction of an event that hasn’t happened yet. The only way a prediction can be wrong is about an event at the point of its resultant outcome.

    Unless you’re saying you know Emmet McDonough-Brown or Paula Bradshaw hasn’t been selected, which probably means one of the councilors from the border “constituency of Lisnasharragh”… Michael Long or Carole Howard … or possibly Duncan Morrow got selected … then no prediction is wrong (yet).

    I would’ve thought Bradshaw-‘McDonough-Brown’ would’ve made the more balanced ticket though.

  • Kevin Breslin

    McKinney as a journalist is connected to South Belfast, he works in Belfast and lives in Belfast. Being a journalist isn’t a handicap… Cameron’s worked in journalism, Nesbitt’s comes from journalism, McCann’s profile’s been helped by journalism, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir returned to politics from his career in journalism.

    Also he’s basically inherited McDevitt’s vote like McDevitt inherited Carmel Hanna’s vote and like Hanna, Ó Muilleoir, Pengelly he’ll have to secure the vote of their predecessor.

    Emma Pengelly hasn’t fought any sort of election before, Christopher Stalford is one of the few people who has experience of fighting for an MLA seat in this contest or elsewhere … he hasn’t yet won one yet either, but he might end up being the second most electorally experienced person after Ó Muilleoir in the South Belfast contest at the tender age of what? 34?

    We live in a world where a major Italian political party called Movimento Cinque Stelle (or the Five Star Movement) is run by a comedian in Beppe Grillo who has never even stood for election and probably will never either.

    If the SDLP chose an unelected Conall McDevitt as Deputy Leader as deputy leader to Margaret Ritchie back in 2010. Many people within the party would see the value of that selection.

    Worse case he loses and keeps Dolores Kelly on her toes and to me Dolores is still the favourite in this race.

    Deputy leaders are chosen on the basis that they can change the party internally, elected politicians should be leaders in their own right, but there are other ways to show leadership than simply winning seats.

    There are deputy leaders who can massively reform a party without a mandate, so even if McKinney doesn’t have one, his job is to get the party on board with the change he can provide.

  • Gaygael

    No – I am counting on a share of first preferences among the 2nd sdlp, 2nd alliance, 2nd sdlp and UUP and green at being around 7-9%. I am counting on the Green candidate staying ahead of the 2nd sdlp and 2nd alliance to be in with a shout. if she is ahead of them when either is eliminated, the transfers will go mostly to the running mate (70% alliance and 60% for sdlp) but will also fritter across other candidates. The green advantage is that we have a sole candidate, rather than a split across 2 sdlp or 2 alliance.
    Good to see you are a mathematician. Apply that to the simple logic of greens being ahead of the sdlp 2nd or alliance 2nd.

  • Gaygael

    Gary Speeding?

  • Granni Trixie

    Great idea.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Every party needs to get 14-15% to get in and to me you’ve put all your eggs in swing SDLP votes and SDLP transfers.

    The DUP vote was nearly split 12 – 12 both would be 3% higher than the Green Party if they had 9% and 5% if GP a mere 7%

    The DUP need only need 4% to win two seats, and the greens need 3% to stay in against the last DUP runner, at 7% they are 5% behind and need other parties to double their vote. There’s no way DUP 2 is fair game with a measly 7%, Split the DUP vote 14-10, you’ve got one DUP elected first count and the second DUP still 3% ahead of the Greens, UUP still around 3% ahead of the Greens.

    And there’s 6% of UKIP/Loyalist/Other Unionist votes to redistribute to DUP 2 and the UUP to increase the margin. If that splits anyway evenly between DUP and UUP both are nearing 13 … with Greens still stuck on 7 or 9, three way split and one might only be on 12.

    On the other side of the coin Sinn Féin 13, SDLP 11, SDLP 8, Alliance 9, Alliance 7, Green Party 7-9, … there’s about 8 of these points ensuring SF, SDLP, Alliance get in, some will go to unionists and some will get lost, but the Greens would need the bulk of what remains or it’s out next … and a unionist gets in. There’s too much reliance on sympathy to get a 3% (or 5% if the GP are on 7%) here to beat DUP 2 to a seat.

    You’d have 6 Candidates all ahead of the Greens including the second DUP with all six nearly 1 away from being elected.

    Someone getting 7% in South Belfast on the first count, probably wont be elected, no matter who’s behind them.

  • Gaygael

    I am not predicting the exact line up of the candidates. I fully expect that 2 DUP, 1 SDLP and SF will all be above 10% the second tranche will be decisive. The next tranche will be decisive for the green. At your estimate, if the greens got 9% at the top end, they would get elected. 8% makes it difficult. 7% makes it almost impossible.
    At 9% they would be significantly boosted by the elimination of the first alliance, which would elect their alliance running mate. The elimination of the SDLP would do the same for them. Surpluses from both th these elected candidates would hugely help the green and put them ahead of the DUP second or a weak UUP.

    There is also an additional 1-2% from the lower placed and early elimated candidates. This will go to 1 green early on rather than splitting across 2 alliance and 2 SDLP. The greens will also get small transfers from eliminated smaller unionist parties. Very small admittedly but in comparison to 0 for SDLP and alliance.

    This is why I have consistently said, it’s in the mix and my hunch is she will get it.

  • Gaygael

    My split was more like this;

    SF 14
    SDLP 12 and 10
    DUP 11 and 9
    UUP 8
    Alliance 11 and 7
    Green 8
    PBP 1
    SP 1
    WP 1
    Cons 1
    UKIP 5
    TIV 1

  • Kevin Breslin

    Okay, firstly you would need the Green Party to beat the UUP on the first count, (the most obvious way to do so is to win over UUP voters) and the United Left Alliance near the bottom has nowhere near made it to 1% between them, never mind 1. Similar story with the Tories. I don’t think the openly “unionist party” vote is as weak as you say here, it’s usually just short of 36% or 38% … but I guess I could probably hand-wave this.
    Green Party vote is weakest in Balmoral and unless that changes dramatically, it’s not going to be near 8%

  • Gaygael

    In 2011 the smaller left parties got 2.7% among them and in 2015, the Tories got 1.5.
    But sure don’t let facts get in the way.
    I have Nats on 36% Unionists on 36% and others 28%.

  • Kevin Breslin

    South Belfast 2011:- It was 2.5% to Worker’s Party, Socialist Party and People before Profit and 0% for the Conservatives who didn’t stand. It was around 0.4% the last time they did. Highest result in a non-FPTP/non-Westminster election was 0.7. If the Green vote does grow, you cannot limit the possibility that it would simply be at these parties expense, and such would reduce the number of supposedly “Green friendly” transfers later in the count, as they were simply paid up front in a manner of speaking.

    Then again, who am I to second guess acts of individualism such as voter agency? The Green Party are bound to get transfers from the likes of UKIP etc. maybe not a critical amount.

  • Gaygael

    Yes apologies. You are right. It was 2.5% to smaller left parties. And that splits about 40% to greens, with the other 60% splitting across 2 sdlp and 2 alliance and SF.
    Additionally, UKIP seem a pretty consistent 8% transfers to greens, and Cons 10%. Votes that neither alliance nor sdlp will get. The miniscule amount they get will again be split across 2 candidates.
    As I have consistently said since we began this discussion numerous threads ago, the Green success lies in being in the mix of that second tranche of candidates, and above the SDLP 2nd and Alliance 2nd when apart the departure of UKIP and we get to the business end.
    The Greens ran a shoe string campaign in 2015 and got 2238 votes. Expect that to be up.