SDLP leader Colum Eastwood to contest European election

The European election should be ... ‘the North’s People’s Vote’ – Eastwood

On Thursday the SDLP leader said he was “seeking to secure a historic second seat representing the Pro-Europe Majority in Northern Ireland”.   File Photograph: Alan Betson

On Thursday the SDLP leader said he was “seeking to secure a historic second seat representing the Pro-Europe Majority in Northern Ireland”. File Photograph: Alan Betson

 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is to contest the upcoming European Parliament election on May 23rd.

On Thursday the Foyle legislative assembly member (MLA) said he was “seeking to secure a historic second seat representing the Pro-Europe Majority in Northern Ireland”.

With DUP and Sinn Féin incumbents Diane Dodds and Martina Anderson expected to retain their safe seats, the competition will be for the third seat in the North, currently held by UUP MEP Jim Nicholson, who has said he will not be running again.

“This is an election like no other,” Mr Eastwood said. “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.”

Mr Eastwood said the European election should be a referendum, “the North’s People’s Vote”. He said the SDLP “is within striking distance of the third European seat”. He told BBC Radio Ulster his party was “best placed” to take a second pro-Remain seat over the Alliance Party.

Other candidates

It’s likely the UUP candidate will be former minister Danny Kennedy and its expected Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, who has strong cross-community support, also announced her candidacy. Brexiteer, Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister could also have a chance of taking the third seat if he decides to run.

In 2014, Ms Anderson won 159,813 first preference votes, while Ms Dodds won 131,163. Mr Nicholson won 83,438 votes, while former West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood, now retired from politics, was close behind on 81,594 votes. Mr Allister won 75,806, and the former Alliance South Belfast MLA Anna Lo won 44,432 votes.

The SDLP last secured a set in Europe through former leader John Hume in 1999. Potential candidates had been former leader Mark Durkan but he chose to stand in Dublin for Fine Gael, and south Belfast MLA Claire Hanna, the party’s former Brexit spokeswoman, who resigned the whip earlier this year when the SDLP announced it’s new partnership link up with Fianna Fáil.