Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Former UTV man Fearghal McKinney to seek SDLP selection

Fearghal McKinney has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years
Fearghal McKinney has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years

Former UTV reporter Fearghal McKinney has said that he intends to stand for the SDLP in Fermanagh and South Tyrone at the general election.

Flanked by party leader Margaret Ritchie, the journalist told a press conference in Belfast that it was a "new era" for the SDLP and NI politics.

Mr McKinney, who was brought up in Enniskillen, has worked in the media for more than 25 years.

He was a familiar face at UTV where he was a political reporter and presenter.

He told the press conference that he was seeking the party's nomination because he believed that Northern Ireland needed strong representation at Westminster.

He added: "This election will be won and lost on the doorsteps.

"I know I have a fight ahead of me to win the seat but I am looking forward to the challenge."

Ms Ritchie said that she was fulfilling her promise to bring through "a new generation of SDLP representatives".

She added: "The SDLP are offering people a new agenda and with the addition of Fearghal, we are offering people a new politician with an exciting future."

Mr McKinney left UTV in 2009 to set up a digital media business.

In the 2005 general election, the seat was won by Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew with 18,638.

She narrowly defeated the DUP's Arlene Foster, who won 14,506 votes.

The SDLP's candidate, Tommy Gallagher, who won 7,230 votes, trailed in fourth place behind the Ulster Unionists.

Privately, SDLP officials believe Mr McKinney's high profile and media skills will help him take the seat from Sinn Fein.

He is the second well-known media figure to make the move from journalism to politics in recent weeks.

Last month his former colleague, Mike Nesbitt, was selected to run for the Conservatives and Unionists in Strangford.

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