Six opportunities for new SDLP leader

I have written and article for today’s Irish News looking six issues which are likely to shape that SDLP leadership contest.

As well as needing to firm up the proposal on the Forum for Unity and provide the electorate with an alternative to the DUP-SF coalition, renewal is need within the party.

The acid test of a good leader is her/his ability to build a talented and ambitious team. This means having people on board who are going to challenge and bring new ideas and energy to the top team. It means having the courage to recruit people who might someday do your job.

There is an urgent need for new blood at Assembly level. Mark Durkan was successful at local government level bringing forward new councillors. The next leader will have to do the same for the Assembly.

It is also time to build alliances which reflect 21st century Ireland.

The SDLP can see Fianna Fail and Irish Labour support groups in the North as a threat but given neither are contesting elections why not convert them into allies. The new leader can walk alone or seek to broaden the party’s support base from within democratic nationalism and the non aligned middle ground without diluting the party’s independence or integrity.