Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd has 'no regrets' over challenge

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The MLA was challenging Michelle O'Neill to be Sinn Féin's deputy leader

John O'Dowd says he has "no regrets" about challenging Michelle O'Neill to try to unseat her as vice-president of Sinn Féin.

In August, the long-standing Stormont assembly member said he would take on Ms O'Neill for the role of deputy.

Party members voted on Saturday at the ard fheis (annual conference), where Mr O'Dowd lost his bid.

Sinn Féin has said it will carry out a review into how it elects its leaders over the next 12 months.

After Mr O'Dowd said he would be challenging Ms O'Neill, the party said there would be no public debate or hustings regarding the internal contest.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the result was declared, Mr O'Dowd told BBC News NI he had no regrets about putting his name forward.

"I congratulate Michelle [O'Neill] on winning and I support and endorse what party members have done," he said.

After the result was announced, the party did not provide a breakdown of the votes.

'I will respect the system'

But the decision to withhold that figure may form part of a review into how Sinn Féin leadership contests are conducted.

In a motion proposed and supported by party members on Saturday, the incoming ard chomhairle (party executive) has to carry out a party-wide consultation on the current method of electing the post of president and vice-president.

That review has to be completed and a report brought back to members prior to next year's ard fheis.

Mr O'Dowd said he would feed into the review, adding: "I have observations to make as I would after any election so I'll make my observations and we'll move on from here."

He did not reveal how many votes he received from members, saying he would respect internal processes about how Sinn Féin organises.

"If the system changes in the future, or as part of that review, I will respect the system as it is then, but I'm a member of a democratic organisation, when the findings of the review are made I'll respect those."

He said there had been a healthy debate within Sinn Féin and that the party was now moving on.