People | Margaret Ritchie

Margaret Ritchie

South Down

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Margaret at a glance

Margaret Ritchie was born in Downpatrick and has lived and worked in South Down throughout her life. She obtained a BA degree in Geography and Political Science from Queen’s University Belfast. 

She enjoys reading, walking and the theatre.

Political career

Margaret was one of the SDLP’s two representatives on the Assembly’s Programme for Government Committee and was heavily involved in drawing up policies and strategies for the in-coming Executive and Assembly, having been a member of the Party’s negotiating team at Leeds Castle in Kent in 2004, and also at St Andrew’s in October 2006. She has also served on the Assembly’s Economic Challenges sub-group.

Margaret was first elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in November 2003 and was appointed as Deputy Chair of the SDLP Parliamentary Assembly Group. She has also served as the Party’s Spokesperson on Regional Development and joined Down District Policing Partnership in 2002.

She was first elected to Down District Council in 1985 before standing down in June 2009 and worked for 17 years as Eddie McGrady MP’s Parliamentary Assistant and Political Researcher.

Her political interests include in particular the challenges faced by those in rural areas, working families, children and the elderly.

Margaret was appointed Minister for Social Development on 8 May 2007.  As Minister she introduced the much lauded Winter Fuel Payment for the vulnerable and in keeping with the party’s history in housing embarked on an ambitious and innovative social and affordable housing strategy.

In February 2010 she was elected as the SDLP's first female leader. And in the General Election of May 2010 she became the MP for South Down retaining Eddie McGrady's seat for the party with a landslide victory and a majority of more than 8,000.

Following her victory in South Down, she stepped down as Social Development Minister to be replaced by Alex Attwood.


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