Election profile: Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP leader

image captionAlasdair McDonnell was South Belfast's first nationalist MP

From GP to MP, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell has taken two very different paths in his long career.

A father-of-four, he has been a doctor in south Belfast for more than 30 years and involved in politics since 1968.

Born in 1949 near Cushendall, County Antrim, Dr McDonnell was educated at St McNissi's College, Garron Tower.

He went on to study medicine at University College, Dublin and became a doctor at the Inner City Group Practice at Ormeau Health Centre in 1979.

He was a member of Belfast City Council between 1977 and 2001, and has been a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly since 1998.

In May 2005, Dr McDonnell was elected MP for South Belfast, primarily due to a split in the unionist vote. He was the area's first nationalist representative at Westminster, a seat he retained in the 2010 general election.

Dr McDonnell is a former deputy leader of the SDLP but lost out to Margaret Ritchie in a leadership contest in February 2010.

In November 2011, Dr McDonnell ran again for the leadership of the party and was elected.

Abortion law

Last July, Dr McDonnell ran into controversy after medical files were found by children at a former health centre that he owned.

Dr McDonnell said he was "sincerely sorry for any anxiety or upset caused".

Key priorities


Main pledges

  • The SDLP has pledged a Scottish-style commission on devolving fiscal powers to Northern Ireland
  • It sets out the need for a prosperity process rather than continued austerity
  • It wants VAT in the hospitality and tourism industry reduced to 5%
  • On welfare reform, the party will oppose further cuts

More recently, he was accused of "talking nonsense" over proposed changes to the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

The SDLP opposes changing the law to allow abortion in cases where women have been raped or are carrying a foetus with a lethal abnormality.

Dr McDonnell said: "Nobody can predict that a foetus is not viable, and that's the problem, and as a GP, I'm fully aware".

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