The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood parked his 'battle bus' right on the Derry/Donegal border at Elagh/Coshquin on Wednesday as he launched his campaign to "take back John Hume’s seat in the European Parliament and deliver a second pro-Europe MEP" in the upcoming European elections on May 23.
Mr. Eastwood was joined by elected representatives from his own party as well as senior Fianna Fáil figures, including T.D. and Agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue, as he vowed to make this election a campaign against Brexit.
His campaign bus bears the slogan 'Europe sends us €500 million year: Take back control of your future' in a clear nod to Tory Brexiteer Boris Johnson's infamous and discredited 'We send the EU £350,000,000 a week: Let's fund out NHS instead'.
The SDLP leader said this election will be all about addressing some of the misrepresentations that were aired during the UK referendum debate in 2016.
“This is a critical election. For three years, the voice of the pro-Europe majority in Northern Ireland has been silenced, sidelined and ignored. That ends here and it ends now. This campaign is an opportunity to reassert our demand to remain in the European Union.
“The European Union is proof that the simplest of ideas are always the most powerful. After centuries of division and conflict, people across Europe made a lasting choice. We decided that bridges work so much better than borders," he said.
The SDLP leader, whose predecessor John Hume held a seat in the European Parliament from its establishment as an elected legislature in 1979 until 2004, will be aiming to persuade pro-EU unionists to loan their votes to the party in two weeks' time.
At the last EU election in 2014, less than 2,000 votes separated the SDLP candidate Alex Attwood and the UUP's Jim Nicholson, who was ultimately returned.
Mr. Eastwood is hopeful pro-EU transfers from the Alliance Party, the Greens, and Independents, could make the difference this year.
“Europe has been a positive and progressive influence on our society. It has supported peace and contributed to prosperity across our communities. We do not recognise the Europe portrayed by the baying DUP brexiteers at Westminster because it simply does not exist.
“We need strong voices to take a stand for our farmers and agri-food industry, for our community and voluntary sector, for our cross-border businesses that rely on seamless trade across this island.
"The SDLP was the only party to register to campaign against Brexit, it was the SDLP who first proposed special status for Northern Ireland - the SDLP is the best voice for people here and we are best placed to take this seat.
“This election isn’t about parties, it’s about all of us who voted remain. It’s about all of us who want to stop Brexit. No Brexit, no borders, no more," he said.
More on the Eastwood for Europe campaign in the Friday print edition of the 'Journal.'