Alasdair McDonnell

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Alasdair McDonnell
MLA
Alasdair McDonnell.jpg
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
5 November 2011
Preceded by Margaret Ritchie
Majority 5,926 (17.3%)
Member of Parliament
for South Belfast
Incumbent
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Martin Smyth
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Belfast South
Incumbent
Assumed office
25 June 1998
Preceded by Constituency established
Personal details
Born (1949-09-01) 1 September 1949 (age 65)
Cushendall, Northern Ireland
Political party Social Democratic and Labour Party
Spouse(s) Olivia Nugent
Children 4
Alma mater University College Dublin
Profession GP
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Official website

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell (born 1 September 1949) is an Irish politician who has been the Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) since 2011, and the Member of Parliament and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland for South Belfast since 2005 and 1998 respectively.[1]

Personal life[edit]

McDonnell was born in Cushendall, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. A family doctor in Belfast for over thirty years, Alasdair McDonnell grew up as the eldest child in a large farming family in Glenariff, near Cushendall in the Glens of Antrim, and attended medical school at University College Dublin, graduating in 1974.

In February 1998 McDonnell married Olivia Nugent from Keady, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Since then they have had four children; Dearbhla, Ruairi, Oisin and Aileen.

Political career[edit]

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.

Sensitive Medical Records Controversy[edit]

On 31 July 2014, the Irish News reported that sensitive medical records - including details of Belfast patients' miscarriages - were found on demolition site of Alasdair McDonnell's former GP surgery by local children. A journal with the hand written name "Dr McDonnell" and marked "confidential" contained the names and addresses of several women who appeared to have lost their unborn babies in the 1990s. McDonnell said: “This is a matter of the utmost seriousness and I am sincerely sorry for any anxiety or upset that may be caused to former patients.” [7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Alasdair McDonnell elected SDLP leader". RTÉ News. 5 November 2011.
  2. ^ North Antrim 1950-1970 ARK - Access Research Knowledge
  3. ^ "SDLP scorn for Soviet style SF" The Newsletter 8 August 2012 Retrieved 11 August 2012
  4. ^ Clarke, Liam. "The Belfast Telegraph - SDLP chief Alasdair McDonnell relishes coalition row that could save his seat". The Belfast Telegraph. The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  5. ^ "NI Assembly Civil Service (Special Advisers) Bill". NI Assembly. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Special adviser bill passed after marathon Stormont debate". BBC News. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Cromie, Claire (2014). "Belfast patients' medical files found on demolition site of Alasdair McDonnell's former GP surgery - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk". belfasttelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 

External links[edit]

Civic offices
Preceded by
Ian Adamson
Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast
1995–1996
Succeeded by
Margaret Crooks
Northern Ireland Assembly
New constituency Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Belfast South

1998–present
Incumbent
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Martin Smyth
Member of Parliament
for Belfast South

2005–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Ritchie
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
2011–present
Incumbent