Northern Ireland

Voters across Northern Ireland 'expressed concerns about SDLP leadership' says deputy leader

dolores kelly
Image caption SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly said voters had expressed concerns about leadership during the Westminster election campaign trail

Voters across Northern Ireland have expressed concerns about the leader of the SDLP Alasdair McDonnell, according to the party's deputy leader.

Dolores Kelly was speaking after the former SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the party leadership needs to change in time for next year's assembly election.

Ms Kelly said voters had expressed concerns during the Westminster election campaign trail.

Alasdair McDonnell has made it clear he does not intend to stand down.

"I had every empathy with what he said in relation to the message on the doorsteps because what Mark said was not unique to Derry, it was right across the north," the SDLP deputy leader said.

"But what I do think now in the interests of the party - and that's my only interest - the debate now has to come back into the party itself.

"We need to discuss it in a mature way within the party so that we can give hope to the people that we represent and the people we hope to represent and hope to represent after next year's assembly elections.," Ms Kelly added.

'Empathy'

Speaking on BBC One programme The View, Mr Durkan, who stepped down as leader in 2010, said Dr McDonnell's leadership was "a real issue" posed by voters on the doorstep during general election canvassing.

"If Alasdair thinks that just resigning from the assembly deals with the questions, well it won't because these questions will all surface again once he resigns from the assembly," he said.

"As we move towards an assembly election, the questions won't go away and therefore I think if we're going to be in a better position to fight the election, then the leadership needs to change."

Dr McDonnell earlier rejected criticism by party grandees Seamus Mallon and Brid Rodgers that he should step down, telling the programme: "I'm not going to run away from a task half done."

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