Sinn Féin: Michelle O'Neill sees off leadership challenge from John O'Dowd

John O'Dowd with Sinn Féin colleagues

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Press Eye

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John O’Dowd is a former Stormont minister and even held the role of deputy first minister when Martin McGuinness ran for Irish president in 2011

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has lost his bid to unseat Michelle O’Neill from her position as vice president of the party.

In August, the long-standing assembly member said he would challenge Ms O’Neill.

Party members voted on Saturday at the annual Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (party conference).

Mr O’Dowd congratulated Mrs O’Neill and said he looked forward to working with her.

Several high-profile Sinn Féin members had spoken publicly about who they would be supporting, with Michelle Gildernew coming out in favour of Mr O’Dowd while Francie Molloy said it was the “wrong time” for a leadership contest.

There were no public hustings ahead of the formal vote, and Mr O’Dowd did not give any media interviews explaining his decision to challenge Mrs O’Neill.

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Michelle O’Neill was named Martin McGuinness’ successor as Stormont leader in 2017, and became vice-president the following year

Mrs O’Neill was given her first leadership position by the party in 2017 when she took over from Martin McGuinness who stepped down due to illness.

She was announced as Sinn Féin’s new Stormont leader on 23 January that year, two months before the death of Mr McGuinness.

The following year, she was the only candidate nominated to replace Mary Lou McDonald as vice-president of Sinn Féin.

Mrs McDonald was elected as party president, replacing Gerry Adams who stepped down after 35 years.

Mr O’Dowd briefly filled in as deputy first minister in 2011, when Mr McGuinness ran as a candidate in the Irish presidential elections.

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