Eastwood confirms SDLP to form new official opposition at Stormont

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has written to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly signalling his party’s intention to form an official opposition ahead of Tuesday’s recalled NI Assembly.

Colum Eastwood MP.
Colum Eastwood MP.

The move comes months after the Assembly election and with parties yet to form an Executive.

Following disappointing election results in May, the SDLP lost its right to nominate a minister to the Executive.

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Mr Eastwood, MP for Foyle, says his party will now form an opposition to the “politics of division, deadlock and failure” which, he says, has seen the devolved institutions frozen while families across Northern Ireland are hit again and again by soaring energy bills.

Mr Eastwood said he has formally nominating South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole to lead the opposition.

He added: “More than two months after people were promised change in May’s Assembly election, we still have no new Executive, no new schemes to address soaring energy bills, no new ideas to get the show back on the road. Despite big promises made to get money into people’s pockets and to address the real challenges families are facing, we’ve got more of the same failure that came before.”

“We have already provided strong opposition to the Tory/DUP axis at Westminster, now the party will provide a constructive alternative to the politics of division, deadlock and failure that has gripped this place for far too long. We will provide a new kind of politics that addresses the problems facing parents and families across our communities.”

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He said he had absolute confidence in Matthew O’Toole’s ability to lead a positive, effective and constructive alternative to Stormont Ministers who, he claimed, “continue to take decisions in the absence of an Executive”.

Matthew O’Toole said those who “have held the democratic institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to ransom” cannot be allowed to “inflict further pain on our communities while they play cynical power games in London”.

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He said his party had a fully drafted emergency bill that could put millions of pounds into families pockets.

“Our opposition to the politics of division and deadlock which has infected Stormont is about transforming this place and the lives of all its citizens,” he added.

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“And my appeal to others is that, if you’ve had enough of the failure, then join us. We can build something much better together.”

The SDLP won eight seats in May’s election, four fewer than before.