Eastwood and Durkan to fight for seats in Foyle

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood and Mark H Durkan.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood and Mark H Durkan.

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SDLP partly leader Colum Eastwood and former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan have been formally selected to fight for the retention of their seats in Foyle.

The Derry branch of the party met on Thursday night to decide on their candidates to contest the March 2 Assembly election.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA said the election, triggered in the wake of the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal, “offers the chance of change”.

The forthcoming election will see the number of Assembly seats available in Foyle reduced from six to five due to the Assembly downsizing from 108 MLAs to 90.

Mr Eastwood said: “At a time when Ireland is facing into the huge challenge of a Tory, hard Brexit – our government has left Northern Ireland with no plan and no voice.

“They have left us with no budget, no programme for government and no public inquiry.

“Only last May they offered you a ‘fresh start’ – less than 10 months later that government has now failed.

“If they can’t work with each other, then they can’t work for you and your family. They can’t work for the common good.”

Mr Eastwood added: “The price of their failure has cost Northern Ireland far too much for far too long. In this election you do have a choice.

“Choose between two parties who have shown that they can’t work together or take the chance to choose differently - choose those of us who have shown that we can work together. Choose parties who want to work together.

“The SDLP is putting forward a new team at this election – a new team that can govern for everyone.

“We are offering you the chance to change an establishment of old bigotry and old battles. Difference doesn’t have to mean division, it doesn’t have to mean deadlock.

“I know that it can sometimes be hard to hope that change is possible in our politics – but change does and can come if we make it happen.

“Ireland, north and south, has come a long way. It is now time a new team moved us forward from a politics of peace to a politics which brings progress.

“If you want to see that change - come out and vote for it.”

Fellow long-standing Foyle Assemblyman Mark H Durkan meanwhile said he was “honoured” to be selected again as an SDLP candidate.

He said: “There are challenges ahead for politics here but that’s nothing compared to the challenge of improving the lives of people in this city.

“Under this government we have seen little or no progress in many areas - Derry’s economy still lags far behind other areas, the expansion of Magee seems to have been put on ice and our much needed road improvements put on the long finger.

“And of course, there is a direct correlation between the economic situation and health inequalities suffered by people in this region.

“I have fought and will continue to fight for improvements to our health service where tens of thousands of people remain languishing on waiting lists and I will continue to challenge the historical neglect of mental health services.”