O’Dowd leadership challenge is a watershed for Sinn Féin

In a party whose leaders are anointed, rather than contested, the challenge to O’Neill may signal a move towards more democratic principles

8th September, 2019
Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s vice president, is facing a challenge from former education minister John O’Dowd Pic: PA

In a surprise move last weekend, Sinn Féin heavyweight John O’Dowd announced in a tweet that he would challenge Michelle O’Neill for the vice-presidency of the party at the November ard fheis.

Ordinarily, within a political party any announcement of a leadership challenge barely raises an eyebrow, being simply part of the cut and thrust of politics. For Sinn Féin, though, this is a watershed moment.


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