SDLP leadership debate ‘healthy’

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An SDLP councillor in Limavady says debate about challenges to the party’s leadership is “healthy” and “is always up there for debate”.

SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle was speaking in the wake of MLA Patsy McGlone’s revelation he will challenge Margaret Ritchie for the leadership of the party.

Ms Ritchie has been in the post less than two years. Mr McGlone’s confirmation that he would stand follows weeks of speculation. He said he had been encouraged to do so by friends and colleagues who shared his belief that “now is the time for change.”

The Mid Ulster MLA said: “I am proud of my Irishness and proud to offer myself as leader of a party which represents an Irishness of inclusivity, regardless of race, colour or creed.

“These core values, articulated by John Hume and Seamus Mallon, are precisely what attracted me to the SDLP in the first place.”

Colr. Coyle said leadership debate is healthy but doesn’t mean “we will have or should have change”.

“John Hume, Mark Durkan and Margaret Ritchie have all been brilliant leaders,” he said, “but, at this time, it would be rather foolish to think only two people might contend for the leadership. It may just be Margaret Ritchie or it could be half a dozen people or Patsy may change his mind.”

He added: “We are in a party that is forward thinking and within Limavady the SDLP will be listening very carefully to all the candidates and their ideas for the party.”