DCSIMG

Conall McDevitt had strong internal foes

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt who tonight dramatically quit politics after admitting he failed to declare payments made shortly after he was elected.

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt who tonight dramatically quit politics after admitting he failed to declare payments made shortly after he was elected.

  • by Sam McBride
 

As with most capable politicians, Conall McDevitt was not universally liked within his own party.

Many less able but more senior figures in the party viewed him as an overly-ambitious upstart.

And the leader who only just beat the former PR man before entering a fairly disastrous period of drift for the party had a complex relationship with the MLA.

Mr McDevitt and Alasdair McDonnell have at points not been on speaking terms, though in the months prior to Alex Attwood’s replacement the pair became close. Mr McDevitt is believed to have been unhappy at being overlooked for that post in favour of Mark H Durkan.

Though largely undocumented, there have been ferocious arguments within the SDLP over recent months and there will be those who believe that the information about Mr McDevitt’s financial affairs was leaked from within the party to undermine him.

But, aside from the source, the brutal truth is that Mr McDevitt demonstrated — both in his initial handling of his financial arrangements with his wife and his reaction to the story — at best, naiveté.

Given that every aspect of his three financial misjudgments to date has had to be uncovered by the BBC, even some of his friends were last night wondering if there was something more to come — beyond a mere £6,000 undeclared sum — which prompted his sudden departure.

Whatever the reason, his departure was described by one SDLP source as a “disaster for the party”. MLAs, even those often at odds with him, were left staggered.

Last night Claire Hanna, the young south Belfast councillor, emerged as the favourite to succeed Mr McDevitt in the Assembly. Like Mr McDevitt, she is viewed as being on the party’s moderate wing.

Mr McDevitt was for many people the face and voice of the SDLP because he was often wheeled out to handle tricky interviews. Some of those most jealous of him may now find themselves in the hot seat at uncomfortable moments.

 

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