COLUM EASTWOOD has bowed out of the SDLP deputy leadership race, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.
Speaking last night, the former Mayor of Derry and recently elected Foyle MLA said he made the decision to allow him to fully concentrate on delivering for the people of the city. “I believe it is not the right time for me because there’s so much work to do for Derry.”
He said it was obvious from reading through the draft Programme for Government - which omitted any reference to Derry regeneration plan - that the “Executive is not doing its job”.
“I really think I have enough to be doing in the Foyle constituency,” he said, citing several key issues that need addressed, including Executive decisions to shelve the Derry rail link upgrade and plans to increase Magee university places as well as continued lack of inward investment in the city.
Mr Eastwood, who enjoyed one of the highest profile mayoralty’s in Derry’s history - a term which included the publication of the Bloody Sunday report, the City of Culture designation and the Clipper yacht race announcement - said he was “very grateful” to those who showed confidence in his ability to lead the party.
And he vowed to show leadership in rejuvenating the SDLP for a new generation.
“I’ve got a lot of ideas for the party, which has led the way for the past 40 years. We need to address the fallacy that the SDLP’s job was completed with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement - it’s important that we are united in articulating our vision to get back to that position.”
He added: “This leadership contest has to be about providing leadership for a new generation, I’ll play my role in that and I’m sure others will too.”
Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly will now move into the SDLP Deputy leader’s post unopposed.