Veteran SDLP assemblyman John Dallat has said his party leader Alasdair McDonnell must “absolutely” step down.
The East Derry MLA, a member of the SDLP since 1973, has also said Dr McDonnell must vacate his assembly seat immediately.
Mr Dallat spoke to the ‘Journal’ following comments from Foyle MP and former SDLP leader Mark Durkan on the BBC’s ‘The View’ programme that the party leadership needs to change in time for next year’s assembly election.
“I endorse the sentiments of Mark Durkan,” said Mr Dallat.
Regarding Alasdair McDonnell’s South Belfast assembly seat, Mr Dallat said: “The assembly seat should be relinquished now - not next week, not next month - now. The new assembly member should be installed immediately so Alasdair can bed-in at Westminster and help his two colleagues work through some very serious issues, including welfare reform, and also relating to the approach by the British government to this part of Ireland.”
When asked if Dr. McDonnell should resign as party leader, Mr Dallat replied: “Absoutely.”
When asked who he thought would be in the running as the next SDLP party leader, Mr Dallat said: “I honestly believe, contrary to popular belief, there are many young people withing the SDLP, talented people, in the same mould as the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon who could bring the party into a new generation of politics.
“I think all of us have to decide what is best for the SDLP and what encapsulated the ideas and ideals of people such as Seamus Mallon, John Hume and Brid Rogders who laid the foundation stones of the SDLP in the first place.”
Mr Dallat added: “The restructuring of the party doesn’t have to be seen as failure by Alasdair on his part, but it’s time to move on and put in place new structures which will deliver both at home and in Westminster.
“As someone who has served the party for 41 years, the message has never been clearer.”