Margaret Ritchie (politician)

Margaret Ritchie (politician)
Margaret Ritchie MP MLA
Leader of SDLP
In office
7 February 2010 – 5 November 2011
Preceded by Mark Durkan
Succeeded by Alasdair McDonnell
Member of Parliament
for South Down
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Eddie McGrady
Majority 8,412 (19.8%)
Minister for Social Development
In office
Preceded by Office suspended (Nigel Dodds)
Succeeded by Alex Attwood
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for South Down
Assumed office
26 November 2003
Personal details
Born 25 March 1958 (1958-03-25) (age 53)
Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Social Democratic and Labour Party
Alma mater Queens University of Belfast
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Ritchie SDLP

Margaret Ritchie (born 25 March 1958) is an Irish politician from Northern Ireland. She was the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party from 7 February 2010 to 5 November 2011 - being replaced in this role by Alasdair McDonnell - and served as the Minister for Social Development from 8 May 2007 until her election to the UK Parliament in May 2010. She was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of South Down on 6 May 2010. On 24 May, she resigned from the Stormont Executive. She was succeeded as Minister for Social Development by her party colleague, Alex Attwood.


Early life

Ritchie is a graduate of Queen's University, Belfast and served as Parliamentary assistant to Eddie McGrady MP from 1987 to 2003.

Political career

Ritchie became a councillor on Down District Council in 1985 and was Vice-Chairman (1992–93) and Chairman of the Council (1993–94). She has also served as International Secretary of the SDLP and as an alternate member of the European Committee of the Regions.

She was nominated as the Social Development minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly by the SDLP which took effect on 8 May 2007. Ritchie served as the sole SDLP minister in the Paisley/Robinson-McGuinness Northern Ireland Executive. She became the leader of the SDLP succeeding Mark Durkan on 7 February 2010 and was elected MP for South Down on the 6th of May 2010.[1]

Despite the SDLP's opposition to "double-jobbing", Ritchie currently retains her seat in the Assembly as well as her seat in the House of Commons.

On Remembrance Day 2010, Ritchie made history by becoming the first leader of a nationalist party to wear a remembrance poppy. She wore it at the wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph in Downpatrick. In Northern Ireland, the wearing of poppies is controversial. It is seen by many as a political symbol representing support for the British Army.[2] Because of this, it has long been the preserve of the unionist/loyalist community.[3] She received praise from several unionist councillors for this.[4][5][6]

On December 2010 she launched a verbal attack on Sinn Féin by urging voters in the Republic of Ireland not to vote for Sinn Féin in the next Irish General Election describing their politics as 'sectarian' and causing 'division'.[7] A Sinn Féin spokesperson described the comments as "nonsense" and "an attempt to score cheap points" [8]

In the Northern Ireland Assembly election, 2011, the SDLP lost two seats and saw its vote decline by 1%. On the 27th of July 2011 it was reported that she faced a leadership challenge from deputy leader Patsy McGlone. [9] The Phoenix reported that only one MLA Alex Attwood was prepared to back her and that "she will be humiliated if she puts her leadership to a vote" [10]

WikiLeaks US Cable

In a leaked US cable Ritchie was branded "wooden" and had her leadership of the SDLP questioned. Also she was considered to be burdened "with what some deem an unpleasant speaking voice" and lacking the "political muscle and business acumen" to rebuild the SDLP.[11]


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Eddie McGrady
Member of Parliament for Down South
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Eddie McGrady
MLA for Down South
2003 -–present
Political offices
Preceded by
Office suspended
Minister for Social Development
2007 - 2010
Succeeded by
Alex Attwood
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mark Durkan
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
2010 - 2011
Succeeded by
Alasdair McDonnell

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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