Sunday 17 December 2017

SDLP's new leader falters under spotlight

Steven McCaffery

THE new leader of the SDLP yesterday promised to revive the party -- but was undermined by a faltering appearance on live TV within 24 hours of getting the job.

Alasdair McDonnell defied the bookies to seize the party's leadership in a vote on Saturday, less than two years after he lost out to Margaret Ritchie.

The doctor-turned-politician saw off the challenge of Patsy McGlone, Alex Attwood and Conall McDevitt for the leadership.

But while Ms Ritchie was ousted amid criticisms of her media performance, her successor struggled to deliver his first leader's speech to a live TV audience.

Viewers saw him complain about bright lights, as he appeared to have difficulty in reading his speech.

"Could somebody turn off those lights please," he said. "I'm blinded."

The initial laughter of party conference delegates later turned to concern as he gave a faltering delivery.

His speech, however, included detailed plans for rebuilding the SDLP and promised a new collective leadership.

The party once dominated the nationalist political scene in the North, but it has long been overtaken by Sinn Fein.

Irish Independent

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