Upper Bann MLA in leadership bid

A STRONG grassroots organisation is vital for the prospects of the SDLP, Dolores Kelly has said.

The Upper Bann MLA announced last week that she is standing for the party’s deputy leadership, and is so far the only candidate.

“We still have a very valuable contribution to make to the wider public and political scene,” said Mrs Kelly.

“I got involved in politics to serve people and communities, and that’s something the SDLP do well.

“We are here to give a voice to those at the margins of society.”

There is some speculation that young rising SDLP star Colum Eastwood has been urged to put his name forward for the deputy leadership.

“I’m undaunted by the prospect of a challenger,” said Mrs Kelly.

“In fact, it would be a good thing. The SDLP is a democratic party and a challenge can strengthen us.”

She continued: “The prospects of our party rest not just on leadership. What is vitally needed is a good grassroots organisation, so I would encourage anyone who is interested to join the party.

“As well as that, we also need a leadership with ideas that people can galvanise around.”

Mrs Kelly said she was asked to consider standing for the leadership, but declined for “personal reasons”.

She contends she would be a strong candidate and insists she has the experience.

“I have 18 years of public service under my belt,” she said.

“I have been on the policing board and health committees, among others.

“As Mayor of Craigavon, I think I was successful in representing all people in the area.

“I’m aware that the deputy leadership will take a lot of hard work and dedication, but I’m ready for that.”

She added that she has the most important traits necessary to survive in politics - a thick skin and a sense of humour.