The SDLP’s candidate in the up-and-coming European election, Alex Attwood, believes the people of Derry have been “let down” politically over the last few years.
On a visit to ‘The Derry Journal’ offices on Tuesday morning, Mr. Attwood, who is currently an MLA, said, if elected on May 22, he would work tirelessly to make sure Derry got what it was entitled to at the European parliament in Brussels.
“We have real strong sense within the party that momentum is with us,” said Mr. Attwood.
“We feel people are starting to come back to the SDLP because they have been let down for too long and they want a change. We have the momentum and believe we are very close to taking the third European parliament seat available.”
The SDLP have not had a member of the party elected as an Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 1999.
Since that time their share of first preference votes across the North of Ireland have decreased from 28.1 per cent in 1999 to 16.2 per cent for Alban Maginness in 2009.
If the SDLP are to stand any chance of reclaiming a seat at the European parliament they would most likely have to narrow the gap between themselves and currently serving Ulster Unionist Party MEP, Jim Nicholson.
“A Belfast newspaper published a projection poll in their paper last week and their figures suggest people are coming back to the SDLP and that we are 1,200 votes away from winning the third European seat.”
Former Sinn Fein MLA, Martina Anderson, was co-opted on to the party’s seat in the European parliament when her colleague, Bairbre de Brún, decided to step down for personal reasons in 2010.
Ms. Anderson, who is from the Bogside, has been a prominent face within Sinn Fein for a considerable time but despite her local connections, Mr. Attwood believes the electorate will vote for the person they believe best for the job.
“People are fed up and let down by politics and they want strong leadership in Europe again. I’ve been on the campaign trail right across the North since January and that’s the message we are getting.
“I think fed up and let down is also part of the mood here in Derry. I met with the Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago and they said the single biggest intervention here was the promise of 10,000 extra graduate places at Magee - this promise was made by other parties a number of years ago and it is a promise that has been broken to the people of Derry.”
If elected as an MEP on May 22, Mr. Attwood believes he would be able to help generate funding streams and influence for the North by being part of the Socialist and Democrat Group within the parliament.
“We have three MEPs in Europe and they are on the margins of where the power is - with the SDLP you are likely to be back amongst what should be the biggest party in Europe - the Socialist and Democrat Group.”