Michelle O’Neill might face contest for deputy leadership of Sinn Féin

MEP Matt Carthy says he would consider running if nominated, while Doherty rules himself out

 It is thought most Northern Ireland-based politicians would be reluctant to run against Michelle O’Neill (above), as that might be perceived as undermining her authority. Photograph:  Jonathan Porter/PressEye

It is thought most Northern Ireland-based politicians would be reluctant to run against Michelle O’Neill (above), as that might be perceived as undermining her authority. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

 

Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill may face a contest to become the party’s deputy leader from MEP Matt Carthy.

As nominations opened this week for the position, Ms O’Neill declared her interest in the role, following Mary Lou McDonald’s uncontested appointment as party leader over the weekend.

While the party’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty has ruled himself out of the race, Mr Carthy said yesterday he might consider running if asked.

The Monaghan-based MEP said he would not go forward of his own volition but would “consider it” if nominated.

To be eligible to run, a candidate must have the backing of five party cumainn or one Comhairle Ceanntair district organisation.

As yet, Mr Carthy has received no nominations but may do so in the next week.

Mr Carthy has taken a lead on the party’s strategy on Brexit and is seen as a rising star. Should long-standing Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin decide not to contest the next general election, Mr Carthy is expected to stand in the constituency.

No intention

Mr Doherty told The Irish Times last night he did not wish to be considered for the position. He said he had outlined in an interview with Raidió na Gaeltachta last week his reasons for not seeking a nomination.

“It’s not my intention to run at this particular moment in time,” he said, signalling he may have ambitions for a leadership position in the future.

Other names that have been mentioned are John O’Dowd and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. However, it is thought most Northern Ireland-based politicians would be reluctant to run against Ms O’Neill, as that might be perceived as undermining her authority.

When contacted last night, Mr O’Dowd declined to comment about his intentions.

Some within Sinn Féin believe a contest would be better than two “coronations” to the most senior roles in the party. They have pointed to the manner in which the Fine Gael leadership campaign allowed the party to be the focus of attention last spring.

However, an alternative view is that a contest in which Ms O’Neill wins by a landslide would not be in the best interests of the party.

Nominations for the position close next week.