SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood is to contest the European Parliament elections, with the party set to try and secure one of three seats for Northern Ireland.
The SDLP Leader is one of three politicians from Derry to announce they are standing in the election in late May, with Sinn Fein recently confirmed current MEP Martina Anderson as its candidate for the north, and former SDLP Leader Mark Durkan standing for Fine Gael in Dublin.
Alliance leader Naomi Long is also expected to throw her hat in the ring later today.
The British government had planned to have exited the European Union by now, which would have meant there would not have been any election in Northern Ireland, but lack of consensus on a way forward over Brexit has led to delays which make it almost certain the elections on Thursday, May 23 will go ahead.
It will mean a busy time for political parties across Northern Ireland as local Council elections are also due to be held on May 2, with canvassers already pounding the pavements and erecting candidates’ posters.
Mr Eastwood said: “This is an election like no other. In June 2016, a majority of people from communities across Northern Ireland came together to express our clear will that we should remain in the European Union. It was a vote that, unlike many others, saw people break free from their traditional trenches to occupy a common ground and a common identity.
“Since then, the broad progressive coalition that came together has been sidelined and silenced. Without a government in Belfast and with the DUP aligned to hard Brexit fanatics in London, people here have been ignored. Enough is enough.
“This European election should be a referendum – the North’s People’s Vote. As the most pro-Europe party in the North and the only party which joined the official campaign against Brexit in 2016, the SDLP will be a strong voice championing our shared values and opposing the destructive ideology that is leading the British Government toward a hard border on this island.
“The electoral maths of this campaign are also clear. Sinn Féin and the DUP are safe. The SDLP is within striking distance of the third European seat but it will be a race against two pro-Brexit candidates. We are the best chance of returning two Pro-Europe MEPs. I’m urging everyone in this election, regardless of how they normally vote, to join the progressive coalition that delivered a Remain vote in 2016 by voting for the SDLP to deliver another pro-Europe MEP to fight our corner.”
At present the Northern Ireland MEPs are Dianne Dodds (DUP), Martina Anderson (Sinn Fein) and Jim Nicholson (UUP), whose seat Eastwood plans to target.
Mr Eastwood is expected to stand on a pro-European ticket and said he wants to give voice to the majority of people in Northern Ireland who voted Remain in the 2016 Referendum.