Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin: O'Neill polled 67% in deputy leadership contest

Michelle O'Neill Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Sinn Féin had come under criticism for initially failing to publish the results of its vice-presidential election.

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill won the deputy leadership of the party with 67% of the vote, the party has confirmed.

Mrs O'Neill received 493 votes while her colleague John O'Dowd failed in his bid to unseat her with 241 votes.

Members voted on Saturday at Sinn Féin's Ard Fheis (party conference) however the party faced criticism for a decision not to publish the results.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald had rejected any suggestion that the party was being secretive.

She said her party's vote was "an internal matter" and it had "concluded".

However the party has now reversed that decision and made the details of vote public.

Sinn Féin has said it will review how it conducts leadership elections in future.

Ms O'Neill said the party was not embarrassed by media scrutiny into publishing the results of the contest.

She insisted she had been "very relaxed about this result being made public".

She claimed the media were more fascinated by the initial lack of transparency than the Sinn Fein membership.

Closed hustings

Mr O'Dowd announced he would challenge Mrs O'Neill for the role of deputy to leader Mary Lou McDonald in August.

The long-standing Stormont assembly member congratulated Mrs O'Neill after the result was declared, saying he looked forward to working with her.

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Media caption"There's absolutely no secrecy"

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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