Deputy leadership: McKinney 158 (53%) – 138 (47%) Kelly
In an emotional speech, runner up Alasdair McDonnell said that he’d “given his all and then a little bit more” to the leadership of the party. He thanked his family who “soldiered with him” and received a long standing ovation as he finished: “I’m gone – though not far away – it’s over to others to keep going”. The defeat had clearly hit him hard.
New leader Colum Eastwood gripped the podium and gripped the delegates in the hall in a way that would have been welcome at lunchtime. He paid generous tribute to the work of his predecessor saying that McDonnell had “stretched every fibre of his being for this party” and contributed “two lifetimes” of effort.
On the SDLP, Eastwood said “people are right to expect more of us”. Discussions had centred to much on the party and he promised:
Our principle conversation will be shaping this region and this country for the next 20, 30 and more years.
He finished his ten minute address:
It’s time to win again.
David McCann spoke to Colum soon after the result.
Earlier in the somewhat haphazard announcement of the results, the new deputy leader Ferghal McKinney spoke about his vision for the more active role of deputy leader and criticised those who had leaked party documents to the media. (Defeated deputy leader Dolores Kelly didn’t have a chance – or didn’t take the opportunity – to speak.)
Photo Carrie Davenport for SDLP.