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Mark Durkan to step down

Mark Devenport | 14:14 UK time, Sunday, 20 September 2009

I'm just off air with Inside Politics and an impromptu appearance on Stormont Live. I'd heard in recent days that Mark Durkan had been briefing colleagues that he intended to stand aside as SDLP leader after next year's Westminster election, so I took the opportunity to clarify this on the record. Mark told me that he never intended to remain as party leader after his 50th birthday, which is due in June next year. So if all goes according to his plan he will defend his Foyle seat, then step down from both the Assembly and the leadership.

Who might take over after Mark Durkan's eight years at the helm? Perhaps his deputy Alasdair McDonnell (although he will face similar dillemmas about whether to concentrate on Stormont or Westminster). Perhaps the party's only minister, Margaret Ritchie. Although there is no vacancy right now that won't stop the tongues wagging about who the future leader should be.


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