Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 14:38 UK

Profile: Alban Maginness

By Martina Purdy
BBC NI political correspondent

Alban Maginness at the launch of the European election campaign
Alban Maginness at the launch of the European election campaign

Alban Maginness has undergone an image change of late.

He shaved off his moustache for BBC Children in Need last year. And at the time admitted it was a trauma - "nightsweats, fear, trepidation and uncertainty".

But like a participant in a TV reality make-over show, he declared afterwards that it was all worth it.

"I feel like a new man," he said.

His new image seems to include a lot of red ties, based on his official website pictures. Politicians like scarlet - it makes them stand out.

He will need to stand out in this election. His party has suffered a series of electoral setbacks since the departure of former leader and MEP John Hume.

The SDLP chose a younger member of the party, Martin Morgan, to defend Mr Hume's seat. The party's vote slumped from 28% to around 16%.

The SDLP is now pinning its hopes on Mr Maginness who is aiming to recapture the seat.

His party insists it is possible for him to recover enough ground to take a second seat for nationalism, but most pundits consider it a long shot.

European Parliament in Strasbourg
The next European election takes place on June 4

This "new man" is a veteran of politics in Northern Ireland. He was the first nationalist to be elected Mayor of Belfast, elected in 1997.

Born in Holywood in 1950, he was educated at St Malachy's College, the University of Ulster and Queen's University.

He trained as a lawyer and was called to the bar in 1984. But having been drawn into politics in the days of the civil rights movement, he became increasingly active as a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

He served as party chairman from 1984 to 1991.

In 1985 he was elected to Belfast City Council and took part in the party's talks team aimed at bringing about a political settlement.

Since 1998 he has been elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly as a member for North Belfast.

Indeed, he was once nominated Minister for the Environment, but that was in 1999 when nationalists were trying to make a political point.

Since no unionists were nominated to serve in the executive the nomination process was deemed invalid.

Mr Maginness is, however, a former chairman of the Regional Development Committee.

In 2004, Mr Maginness competed for the deputy leadership of the SDLP but lost out to Alasdair McDonnell.

While pursuing his career in politics, he has retained his interest in law and in 2007 completed a Masters in Human Rights Law from Queen's University.

Family man

He also boasts a keen interest in European affairs, in fact, he is passionately pro-Europe.

Mr Maginness was a delegate to the Committee of the Regions and he is currently a member of the Special Observer Pillar of the National Forum on Europe.

In this election, he has stressed that he is a family man.

Mr Maginness is married to Carmel and the couple have eight children, three sons and five daughters. His election video features two of his younger children, as he prepares their breakfast.

His slogan: "When we win, you win."

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