Foyle MP Mark Durkan has joined former Stormont Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon in supporting Colum Eastwood in his bid to lead the party.
Mr Eastwood announced his bid to unseat SDLP leader Dr. Alasdair McDonnell last month.
There are just two weeks until the leadership vote at the SDLP party conference in Armagh.
Those calling for Dr Alasdair McDonnell to step down as leader also include former SDLP deputy leader Brid Rodgers.
Mark Durkan led the party for nine years up to 2010.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’, Mr Durkan said: “I have known have Colum for many years since he joined the party in his teens. I’ve been impressed by his grasp of the issues, by his passion. I believe he articulates the SDLP vision and values in a way that shows understanding and is well understood.”
When asked if Mr Eastwood, the SDLP’s youngest MLA, can win the leadership battle, Mr Durkan repled: “I certainly hope that he can. I think it would be a good move, not just for the party, but politics more widely in the north for a younger person of Colum Eastwood’s calibre to step into party leadership.”
When asked if Nr Eastwood doesn’t take the leadership what it would mean for the SDLP.
“I’m not getting into negatives. I’m making a positive argument for what Colum offers the party and the wider public we are here to serve.”
Mr Durkan added; “I will be supporting Colum and I recommending his candidacy to others. Obviously, I will continue to work with Alasdair McDonnell as a colleague, and I’ve made the point before, I think Alasdair now that he’s serving in Westminster and not in the Assembly should usefully concentrate on his role there unincumbered by the party leadership.”
I think it would be a good move, not just for the party, but politics more widely in the north for a younger person of Colum Eastwood’s calibre to step into party leadership.Mark Durkan MP
Among the SDLP’s Assembly team to voice their support for Mr Eastwood are Claire Hanna, Alex Attwood, John Dallat and Dolores Kelly.