SDLP should consider 'going into some form of opposition'
The SDLP has opened up the possibility of exiting from the powersharing Northern Executive and becoming part of a formal opposition at Stormont.
Deputy leader Dolores Kelly yesterday accused the DUP and Sinn Féin of “carve-up” politics. She said in order to save the SDLP’s “soul” consideration should be given to quitting the Executive and handing over its regional development ministry held by West Belfast Assembly member Alex Attwood.
“Shouldn’t we be thinking about going into some form of opposition,” she asked on the opening day of the annual SDLP conference in the Armagh City Hotel yesterday.
“I’m not saying we should walk out of government next week or next month, and I know there is no formal provision for opposition – but shouldn’t we be thinking about where all this is going?” she added.
Delegates at the conference today will be watching to see if party leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell in his keynote speech endorses her suggestion or offers more concrete proposals of how an official Stormont opposition might operate.
Such a move would be a radical departure for the SDLP as it has consistently argued it created the blueprint for the powersharing Belfast Agreement.
Her comments take on an additional resonance as at the recent annual conference of the Ulster Unionist Party its leader Mike Nesbitt also suggested that now might be the time for his party to go into opposition.
The SDLP and the UUP have one ministry each in the Executive, Alliance has two, while the DUP and Sinn Féin hold the remaining seven ministries in addition to two junior ministries as well as the post of First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
The comments from the Upper Bann MLA Ms Kelly and Mr Nesbitt coincide with a recently completed consultation process carried out by the Northern Ireland Office about reshaping the Executive and Assembly and possibly creating an official opposition.
No proposals have so far emanated from that consultation but Ms Kelly’s comments yesterday will sharpen the debate.
Ms Kelly said the “DUP/Sinn Féin administration is following a path that is increasingly difficult for us to support”.
“Despite us being a party of constructive participation and despite the valiant work of Alex Attwood, we are being tarnished by the failures and behaviours of this DUP/SF Executive,” she said.