SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood has announced his candidacy for leader of the party.
He said: “I am greatly honoured to receive nominations for party leader from SDLP branches across the North. Having listened very carefully to what our members and supporters are saying, I am proud to announce today that I will be a candidate for party leader.”
Mr Eastwood announced he’ll be challenging current leader Alasdair McDonnell in advance of the party’s annual conference in November.
“I believe now is the time for a new generation to take forward, not only the party, but the future direction of the country. I intend to pursue a new brand of progressive nationalism – one that is not defined by birth but based on radical and realistic proposals and policies for a better future.
“We need to make Northern Ireland work for everyone, by rising to the challenge of reconciliation, driving economic growth and striving for a truly fair and shared society. Under my leadership the SDLP will promote a progressive nationalism which has economic credibility, social justice, fairness and inclusion at its core,” he said.
He also said that his goal of a united Ireland can only be acheived by making Northern Ireland work.
“Those of us who want to achieve a united Ireland in the future must give our all to make Northern Ireland work today. As a proud nationalist, I believe deeply in a united Ireland.
“I want progressive nationalism to go much further on unity than the mere sloganising that until now has been trying to pass itself off as strategy. I want the SDLP to set out exactly what a new united Ireland will look like, and to set about convincing all the people of Ireland of the value of our convictions.
“People want new leaders with new ideas, charting a new direction for our economy and our society. That is what I want the SDLP to offer. We cannot continue with crisis talks and stand-offs. Our community deserve greater maturity from our politics and bigger ambition from government.
“I am seeking the leadership because I believe in the values and vision of the SDLP. Only when we change ourselves will the SDLP be able to change politics in the North or help shape the new nation. We have to be honest about where the party stands and clear about where we want to.
“That is the conversation we need to have with each other in the weeks to come. I am hungry for change and ready to lead.”