Mark Durkan

Mark Durkan (born 26 June 1960) is a retired Irish nationalist politician from Northern Ireland. Durkan was the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from November 2001 to October 2002, and the Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) from 2001 to 2010.[1][2] He contested the Dublin constituency for Fine Gael at the 2019 European Parliament election.[3]

Mark Durkan
Durkan in 2011
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
6 November 2001  14 October 2002
Serving with David Trimble
Preceded bySeamus Mallon
Succeeded byMartin McGuinness
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
In office
6 November 2001  7 February 2010
DeputyBríd Rodgers
Alasdair McDonnell
Preceded byJohn Hume
Succeeded byMargaret Ritchie
Member of Parliament
for Foyle
In office
5 May 2005  3 May 2017
Preceded byJohn Hume
Succeeded byElisha McCallion
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Foyle
In office
25 June 1998  9 November 2010
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byPól Callaghan
Personal details
John Mark Durkan

(1960-06-26) 26 June 1960 (age 61)
Derry, Northern Ireland
Political partySDLP
Spouse(s)Jackie Durkan
ChildrenDearbháil Durkan
ParentsBrendan Durkan
Isobel Durkan
RelativesMark H. Durkan
Alma materQueen's University Belfast
University of Ulster

Early life

John Mark Durkan was born in Derry; his father, Brendan, was a Royal Ulster Constabulary District Inspector in Armagh.[4] He was raised by his mother, Isobel, after his father was killed in a road accident in 1961. He was educated at St. Patrick's Primary School and at St. Columb's College, where he was Head Boy.

He studied politics at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB), and later did a part-time postgraduate course in Public Policy Management with the University of Ulster at Magee.[5] While at QUB Durkan served as Deputy President of Queen's Students' Union from 1982 to 1983. He was also elected Deputy President of the Union of Students in Ireland from 1982 to 1984.

Political career

He became involved in politics in 1981 when he became a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. In 1984 he went to work for John Hume as his Westminster Assistant. He became a key figure in organising by-election campaigns for Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady in the 1980s.

In 1990 Durkan became chairperson of the SDLP, a position he served in until 1995. He was a key member of the party's negotiating team in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement. Following the Agreement he was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998, and became a member of the Northern Ireland Executive as Minister for Finance and Personnel. He served in that position until 2001 when he replaced Seamus Mallon as deputy First Minister. He was also elected Leader of the SDLP the same year.

Durkan was re-elected to the Assembly in the election of November 2003. However, the Assembly and the Executive remained suspended. In the 2005 general election he retained the Foyle seat at Westminster for the SDLP. While down on Hume's vote, Durkan won with a comfortable majority, despite a strong effort by Sinn Féin to take the seat. He garnered 21,119 votes, 46.3% of the total.[citation needed]

Durkan announced his intention to stand down as leader of the SDLP in September 2009[6] so he could concentrate on his parliamentary career.[6] He was replaced as leader by Margaret Ritchie in February 2010.[7] He is a Fellow of the British-American Project. [citation needed]

Durkan has publicly supported gay rights by supporting the Foyle Pride Festival in Derry, in solidarity with those who suffer homophobic prejudice and in some cases violent hate attacks.[8]

He joined Fine Gael in March 2019 to contest the 2019 European Parliament election for the Dublin but failed to gain a seat. He has now retired from frontline politics, but remains an active member and supporter of the SDLP.[3]


He and his wife Jackie have one child, Dearbháil. His nephew Mark H. Durkan is an SDLP MLA for Foyle.


  1. Who's Who (UK) profile (subscription required)
  2. "Debrett's profile of Mark Durkan". Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  3. Sheahan, Fionnán; McQuinn, Cormac (4 March 2019). "'I'm making no pretence here' - Fine Gael European elections candidate Mark Durkan unable to name four streets in Dublin". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 4 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  4. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 20 April 2006 (pt 32)". Archived from the original on 19 October 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  5. Mark Durkan biodata at the Northern Ireland Assembly website Archived 28 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Durkan announces intention to step down Archived 12 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine RTÉ News, 20 September 2009
  7. Cowen congratulates new SDLP leader Archived 10 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine RTÉ News, 7 February 2010
  8. "Durkan urges people to support Gay Pride". The Londonderry Sentinel.