Michelle O'Neill survives challenge to role as Sinn Féin vice president

Michelle O'Neill survives challenge to role as Sinn Féin vice president

Sinn Féin's vice-president Michelle O'Neill has seen off the challenge of John O'Dowd and has retained her post.

Sinn Féin party members met this weekend in Derry for their Ard Fheis and much attention has been on the unusual challenge to her position.

On Friday night, a number of delegates spoke in favour of Mr O'Dowd's decision to challenge Ms O'Neill, saying many of the party's status quo issues have to be constantly challenged.

While it was a benign contest, and the outcome was never in doubt, Mr O'Dowd's decision to stand has reinforced the idea that Ms O'Neill and her party president Mary Lou McDonald are struggling to make an impact.

However, careful party choreography was on evidence to allow Ms O'Neill to maintain a very visible presence at the Ard Fheis.

Speaking in the wake of the ballot, Ms O'Neill said: “I am really honoured to have been endorsed by the membership of Sinn Féin and re-elected to the position of Leas-Uachtarán.

“I am thankful to delegates and members across Ireland who voted for me in this contest.”

She said the contest was conducted in a very comradely way across the party where John O’Dowd and she campaigned internally and put forward our platform and vision to the Sinn Féin membership.

“John is a longstanding republican and a highly regarded colleague and I very much value his political contribution and friendship.

“We are both committed to advancing our party, so that we are fit for purpose as a political movement now and in the future,” she said.

Sources in the party, speaking to PA Media Group, said that there was little doubt that Ms O’Neill would carry on in the role, despite the challenge, but most welcomed the ability to choose.

Most representatives had not publicised who they would be supporting in the challenge ahead of the ballot.

Pearse Doherty refused to say on Tuesday who he would support on the ballot, but said the candidate is confident in the knowledge they have his support.

Previously, Michelle Gildernew, MP for Fermanagh, publicly backed Mr O’Dowd and Kathleen Funchion, TD for Carlow and Kilkenny, confirmed she was be backing Ms O’Neill.

More than 2,000 party members debated 166 motions at the party conference, looking at all policy areas, including planning for Irish reunification, large-scale public housing, measures to reduce rent, the climate emergency and insurance premiums.

President of Irish Congress of Trade Unions Gerry Murphy addressed the delegates as well as representatives from Palestine and Cuba.

- additional reporting by Press Association

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