Northern Ireland

Alasdair McDonnell writes to SDLP chairs on leadership

Alasdair McDonnell
Image caption Alasdair McDonnell contested the leadership before but lost out to Margaret Ritchie

SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell has written to the party's branch chairmen inviting them to nominate him for the leadership in the event of a contest.

Dr McDonnell's letter is further evidence of his growing interest in the post.

It follows an announcement by the SDLP deputy leader Patsy McGlone that he is going to challenge leader Margaret Ritchie in November.

Dr McDonnell refused to comment on his letter.

The BBC understands that it was sent out in the past 24 hours to around 60 people who chair the party's branches.

Dr McDonnell contested the leadership in 2010, but was narrowly defeated by Margaret Ritchie.

Earlier this month Mr McGlone confirmed he'll seek the party leadership this autumn. Around the time, Ms Ritchie made clear her firm intention to run.

On Thursday night she met with elected representatives at a Belfast hotel to discuss how the party can reverse its difficult financial position.

Dr McDonnell was present at the meeting. Mr McGlone was on holiday.

Five branch nominations are required to contest the leadership. Just under 350 delegates are eligible to vote in a ballot, which would be held at the annual conference in November.