Video: Derry MP Colum Eastwood says nurses and health workers have been 'used as political pawns'

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood has claimed nurses and health workers have been used as 'political pawns' in the tortuous process of trying to get Stormont back up and running.

The SDLP leader praised front-line staff who have been on strike this week over pay and conditions.

Colum Eastwood.

Colum Eastwood.

"The people we represent have not had a Government for three years. Let that sink in. Look at the consequences for our health service. Our health services are at breaking point.

"Our school budgets are at breaking point. Our nurses, for the first time, are on strike right now. They have been used as a political pawn in this process, because of our failure to deliver for them and the people they look after every single day of the week on our behalf," he said.

Mr. Eastwood said the pay demands of health workers should be met.

"No matter what happens in our talks process, take the nurses and the healthcare workers out of this and provide them with the pay they work for, deserve and are entitled to. They should not have to strike one more day to get their full entitlement, which they absolutely and totally deserve," he said, speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday night.

The Derry MP said a deal needed to be done urgently. He said an extension of the deadline beyond Monday would be unacceptable.

"This has gone on for far too long. I for one, as leader of the SDLP, have already committed myself to compromise on behalf of the people whom we represent.

"Other parties now need to step up and get ready to compromise, because the deadline is Monday, and the deadline should stay Monday.

"We cannot drag this out any longer, because the people whom we represent screamed very loudly at the last election. They are fed up, and what do they want? What are they saying to us?

"They are saying, ‘Get back to work.’ Compromise is not a dirty word."