Alasdair McDonnell

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Alasdair McDonnell
Alasdair McDonnell MP.JPG
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
In office
5 November 2011 – 14 November 2015
Preceded by Margaret Ritchie
Succeeded by Colum Eastwood
Member of Parliament
for Belfast South
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Martin Smyth
Majority 906 (2.3%)
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Belfast South
In office
25 June 1998 – 21 June 2015
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Claire Hanna
Personal details
Born (1949-09-01) 1 September 1949 (age 69)
Cushendall, Northern Ireland
Political party SDLP
Spouse(s) Olivia Nugent
Children Dearbhla
Alma mater University College Dublin
Profession General practitioner
Religion Roman Catholicism

Alasdair McDonnell (born 1 September 1949) is an Irish politician who is a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the Member of Parliament for Belfast South since 2005. He was also a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland for Belfast South from 1998 until 2015.[1] He was Leader of the SDLP from 2011 to 2015.

Political career

McDonnell's first involvement with politics came when he joined the National Democrats and stood as the party candidate in the 1970 election in North Antrim and lost to Ian Paisley.[2]

McDonnell first won election to Belfast City Council in 1977, representing Belfast 'Area A' which included the Short Strand and Upper Ormeau areas. He lost his council seat in a surprise result in 1981 but returned in 1985 and served as the first Catholic Deputy Mayor of Belfast in 1995–1996.

He first stood for the Westminster constituency of South Belfast in the 1979 general election and subsequently contested the constituency at each subsequent general election, though not in the 1986 by-election (caused by the resignation of Unionist MPs in protest at the Anglo Irish Agreement).

He was also elected from the constituency to the Northern Ireland Peace Forum in 1996 and the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and 2003.

In 2004 he became his party's deputy leader. In the 2005 general election McDonnell generated one of the most sensational results in Northern Ireland when he won South Belfast, primarily due to a split in the unionist vote. He received 10,339 votes while the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) candidate Jimmy Spratt received 9,104 votes and Ulster Unionist Party candidate Michael McGimpsey received 7,263 votes. He was then re-elected by an increased majority in the 2010 general election.

On 5 November 2011, he was elected leader of the SDLP at its conference in Belfast, succeeding Margaret Ritchie.[1]

In a 2012 interview with The News Letter, McDonnell criticised Sinn Féin. He said the party were run along "Soviet style" lines where there was a military structure and where former terrorists were being placed into positions of power. He also claimed many people voting for Sinn Féin were doing so as an act of defiance.[3]

As SDLP chief, Alasdair McDonnell described the terms of the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies, a seemingly blocked plan to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons by 50 (including two from Northern Ireland) to 600, as “a bureaucratic numbers game initiated by the Tories for purely party political advantage”.[4]

In June 2013, the SDLP abstained during the vote on the Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill[5] in Stormont, ensuring its passing. This led to claims from Sinn Féin that the SDLP was endorsing a 'hierarchy of victims' agenda and abandoning the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.[6]

Despite the reported claims[6] from Sinn Féin that it was inevitable that someone would mount a legal challenge to "what republicans view as a discriminatory law" no such challenge has since emerged.

On 14 November 2015, McDonnell lost the leadership contest held at the SDLP's annual conference. His successor as leader of the party is Colum Eastwood who won with 172 votes to the 133 that McDonnell received.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Alasdair McDonnell elected SDLP leader". RTÉ News. 5 November 2011.
  2. North Antrim 1950–1970 ARK – Access Research Knowledge
  3. McBride, Sam (8 August 2012). "SDLP scorn for Soviet style SF". The News Letter. Retrieved 1 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Clarke, Liam (8 August 2012). "SDLP chief Alasdair McDonnell relishes coalition row that could save his seat". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 1 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "NI Assembly Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill". NI Assembly. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Special adviser bill passed after marathon Stormont debate". BBC News. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "SDLP leadership: Colum Eastwood wins contest against Alasdair McDonnell". BBC News. 14 November 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Civic offices
Preceded by
Ian Adamson
Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast
Succeeded by
Margaret Crooks
Northern Ireland Assembly
New constituency Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Belfast South

Succeeded by
Claire Hanna
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Martin Smyth
Member of Parliament
for Belfast South