SDLP leadership contender Colum Eastwood has told supporters he is “fed up losing” and it’s time the party united to get back on track.
The Foyle MLA told those at his campaign launch at The Hive in Belfast on Thursday night: “I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up losing! It’s time we started winning again and we can. If we start now, if we modernise, if we re-commit to our new project we can win again. My plan is for the renewal of our party and our politics – a new path to a new future,”
The 32-year-old is hoping to take the top job off incumbent leader Alasdair McDonnell.
Mr Eastwood believes the time is right for change.
“It will take determination and tenacity. It will need us to unite and to stay united. We will have to embrace modern techniques and new ideas. It will take time. I have time. Join with me in making this party win again.”
The MLA told supporters his vision for the party in the future.
“While we are proud of our past we have to be hungry for progress for our future. As Seamus Mallon said recently, we have to be more than ‘good commemorators’. We have to set out a vision and a path for a more prosperous and fairer future,” he said.
“Under my leadership our project will be to build a fair, prosperous and reconciled Northern Ireland; and an inclusive, progressive and united New Ireland. These are the twin pillars of my Progressive Nationalism.”
Mr Eastwood said peace and reconciliation could only go so far.
“This generation of SDLP leaders will set about building practical policies and initiatives to begin to bring our people closer together,” he said. “Let’s get imaginative when it comes to housing, education and the workplace.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up losing! It’s time we started winning again, and we can.SDLP leadership contender Colum Eastwood
Mr Eastwood also spoke of the need for an Opposition at Stormont.
Let me be clear, there should be a place called opposition. One that is properly resourced and supported. But let me also be clear, the SDLP under my leadership will always seek a mandate to govern,” he added.
The event also heard from South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna who is one of a number of current and former senior party figures who are supporting the campaign. These include former Minister Sean Farren, former Minister and deputy Leader Bríd Rogers and current MLA John Dallat among others.