SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has claimed the SDLP offers a fresh alternative to ‘business as usual’ politics after itself undergoing a ‘radical change’.
Mr Eastwood was speaking as he officially launched his party’s Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign at the Mac in Belfast on Tuesday.
Foyle candidate Mr Eastwood is facing what will be the first major test of his party’s strength since he took over as leader in November 2015.
He said his party has already hit the ground running and is “ready for this election”.
“Our candidates and their teams have been out on the doors talking and listening to people right across the North.
“The mood is clear. Business as usual is not an option.
“Northern Ireland needs a new alternative. This new SDLP before you today offers that alternative. This party has undergone radical changes because of our passion to see real change in the North and across the island. This is a renewed party with a new spirit.”
Mr Eastwood said that dealing with the past was critical, and reiterated a pledge made last week that he would speak with dissidents.
“As one of the leaders of Irish Nationalism, I see it as part of my duty to confront and confound those who claim to want Irish unity whilst still clinging on to violence,” he said. “If Irish history has taught us anything it is that a security response alone will not work. If talking to the dissidents means the saving of even one life, then it is well worth it.”