Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin: Michelle O'Neill sees off John O'Dowd's bid for vice-presidency

Michelle O'Neill Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Michelle O'Neill will continue as Sinn Féin's vice-president after seeing off John O'Dowd's challenge

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd has failed in his bid to unseat Michelle O'Neill from her position as the party's vice-president.

In August, the long-standing Stormont assembly member said he would challenge Mrs O'Neill for the role of deputy to leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Party members voted on Saturday at Sinn Féin's ard fheis (party conference).

Mr O'Dowd congratulated Mrs O'Neill after the result was declared, saying he looked forward to working with her.

Ahead of the conference, several high-profile Sinn Féin members had spoken publicly about who they would be supporting.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew came out in favour of Mr O'Dowd, while Francie Molloy, the MP for Mid-Ulster, said it was the wrong time for a leadership contest.

There were no public hustings ahead of the formal vote and Mr O'Dowd did not give media interviews explaining his decision to challenge Mrs O'Neill.

Mrs O'Neill, an assembly member for Mid-Ulster, was given her first leadership position by the party in 2017 when she took over from Martin McGuinness who stepped down due to illness.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption John O'Dowd is an MLA for Upper Bann and a former Stormont minister for education

She was announced as Sinn Féin's Stormont leader on 23 January that year, two months before the death of Mr McGuinness.

The next year, she was the only candidate nominated to replace Mary Lou McDonald as the party's vice-president.

Mrs McDonald was elected as party president, replacing Gerry Adams who stepped down after 35 years.

Mr O'Dowd briefly filled in as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister in 2011 when Mr McGuinness ran as a candidate in the Irish presidential elections.

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