Ritchie launches SDLP leadership bid

Today it was Margaret Ritchie’s turn to formally launch her bid for the SDLP leadership.
Am told those present included Eddie McGrady, Brid Rodgers and MLAS; Tommy Gallagher, Thomas Burns, Carmel Hanna and Alex Attwood.
She majors on her vision for the North and a new Ireland.
Full speech below the fold.
Thank you, and thanks to each of you for coming here this morning for the launch of my campaign.
I want to speak to you about who I am, what I believe in and my vision for the future.
(And you will find more detail including many new ideas in the brochure I am circulating this morning)
In the last few weeks, I have received hundreds of messages of encouragement and support. From across the North, and beyond. From grassroots supporters and many outside the Party.
People who vote for us and some who want to be persuaded to vote for us again. I am grateful to them all.
If elected, it will be my honour to succeed Mark Durkan to whom we owe much. Mark will continue to be a first class MP and a powerful champion for Derry. I hope he will also be a key member of my top team.
I would also like to pay tribute here to former SDLP Ministers Denis Haughey and Brid Rodgers, here today, as committed to our cause as ever.
My South Down colleagues, Peter Craig and John Doris. Consummate organisers who taught me the importance of effective grassroots organisation.
Our many young councillors and activists, who go a long way to answering the lazy claim that the SDLP has no-one coming behind.
And then, of course, there’s my friend and mentor Eddie McGrady. Eddie will be a constant source of advice and support for me, because he always has been.
**********
For me, politics is all about people. People’s needs. People’s rights. Their worries. Their well being. Their aspirations. This wasn’t something I just learned in the SDLP. It is fundamental to who I am.
Both my parents were psychiatric nurses. I myself worked in a care home, where I saw humanity powerfully expressed in the devotion of the staff there, ensuring dignity for those in their care. I grew up in a family in which helping people was second nature.
That’s what brought me into the SDLP and has kept me there ever since.
And it’s what makes me want to lead the SDLP now.
As SDLP members, we can be deeply proud of everything this party has achieved. Peace. Equality. Fairness in housing and jobs. Power-sharing. North South. Reform of policing.
But let me be clear: what this party delivered thirty, twenty or even ten years ago is for the historians. My only interest is in what the SDLP is going to do now.
At this stage of our politics many commentators are asking searching but legitimate questions of the SDLP. What is the SDLP for? How is the SDLP different from its rivals? What is the big idea for the future?
I believe that as a candidate for the leadership of the SDLP, I have to present a vision that answers those questions.
I also believe that in order to build our organisation and attract new members, particularly young people, we need to present a Vision that they can buy into. It was John Hume’s vision that first inspired me – now we need to inspire the next generation.
I could have concentrated this speech on the vital organisational rebuilding that we need to do. But vision comes first – and ‘rolling up our sleeves’ and giving it a lash is not a vision.
My vision for the future starts with what we have yet to achieve.
Like it or not, despite our many successes, we have not delivered prosperity. We have not yet succeeded in reconciling the people of the North. And we have not achieved our goal of Irish Unity.
So it is clear to me that our work is far from done. We now need to focus on building our Economy, reconciling our Society and planning for Unity.

Turning to the Economy first…
We have already shown in devolution that we have stronger ideas for developing our economy – both in the North and throughout the wider island. And clear thinking to bring our region out of recession. But we have bigger plans: we want more economic independence from Britain – and ultimately our own taxation and welfare regimes. Northern Ireland needs to be able to retain the gains made through better economic management. We believe in devolution so we want more of it. Broadcasting and Telecoms too.
At the same time we want to deepen our North/South economic integration. And get serious about the green economy as a source of competitive advantage.
As a first step we will campaign for an all-island independent Environmental Protection Agency and a single all-island Regulator for Energy.
We are brimming with ideas. The SDLP will show people that we are the trailblazers on the economy.
And of course we believe ultimately, that unity is nearer when there is a strong confident economy in the North.

We not only want a strong economy we also want a strong Society
A Shared Future is a cornerstone of my agenda as Minister for Social Development. It will be a foundation stone for my leadership of the SDLP. The mutual tolerance and co-existence we currently have are not enough. That falls short of what our young people have every right to demand. We will aim higher. Not just by aspiring to genuine sharing and mutual respect, but by applying radical new ideas for making those things happen in Housing, Education, Regeneration, Community Funding and Cultural Expression. We know the cost of division. It deepens poverty, as well as prejudice.
I will engage meaningfully with the unionist community. Look them in the eye and tell them they can trust the SDLP and they can trust me. Our engagement will not be the patronising ‘outreach’ favoured by others who do not ultimately believe in sharing. Equal but separate is what satisfies others. It will never satisfy the SDLP. We want a Shared Future that is actually Shared. We have plenty to do. Not in drips and drabs but full steam ahead towards reconciliation and a truly shared society.

Again Irish Unity is nearer when the people of the North are reconciled.

**********
[United Ireland]
I believe in a United Ireland. Unambiguously.
I want to help achieve Unity in my lifetime. As SDLP Leader, I will work every day to lay the foundations upon which a United Ireland can be built – mutual trust, respect and protection for minorities , common purpose and shared endeavour.
I will take our unique ideas for achieving unity to the very heart of decision-making in Dublin. I will campaign hard for the establishment of a new all-party Commission with a clear remit to agree a modern, inclusive vision for a United Ireland. I will press every party in the South to sign up to the SDLP’s radical thinking on unity and our work will present people with the first detailed view of what Unity would look like – ever produced.
We have a major role to play in National politics on this island.
I will also strengthen the positive relationships we have with the main political parties in the South and recognise the realignment that may occur over time. But I will never sell the SDLP out.
Further, we will not promise Irish Unity by 2016 because it is the anniversary of the Easter Rising! Unlike others, we will be credible on Irish Unity.

************
Those will be the three pillars of my leadership, bound together in one coherent vision for the future. A prosperous increasingly independent economy that lifts the lives and wellbeing of all. A genuinely shared society for every citizen. And in time, a United Ireland.
We alone can deliver this vision. So we must make sure we are fit for purpose to deliver. That is why, as Leader, a top priority will be to rebuild the SDLP organisation.
People are ready to embrace a positive new agenda from the SDLP. We owe it to those who support us and to all those who might – to embrace change ourselves.
I am determined to drive through radical change in this party. At every level. In every constituency. Not just talking about what needs to be done, but getting on and doing it.

[Leading]
I will be a leader of courage and a driver of change. As Minister I have been tested many times, sometimes by formidable adversaries, and have always stood up to that test. My desire to help thousands of our most needy citizens prevailed against blanket opposition from our opponents. I have taken the initiative, publicly, on Shared Future while it has been bogged down by the DUP and Sinn Fein. I run the largest Department of Government with authority and purpose. I have punched above my weight in an Executive where we are completely outnumbered.
As a candidate here today – I have already passed the leadership test on behalf of my Party.

None of us is under any illusion about the scale of the challenges confronting our party.
But, together, we have it in us to meet those challenges and more.
Rising again – building on all we have achieved in our proud history, but focusing only on what we have to do now to reach the next horizon.
Spreading our vision and message
Re-building our Organisation
And always, always ..ahead of our opponents – smarter on the Economy; genuine about a Shared Future; Credible on Irish Unity.
I give you my word: all this and more will be my work. And it will be your work too. I ask for your support in this endeavour. Thank you

  • Wake up Maggie

    “A Shared Future is a cornerstone of my agenda” -“We want a Shared Future” – “Equal but separate…will never satisfy the SDLP”

    Clearly, in Margaret’s worldview, and Conall’s previously stated opinion, its now fair to say that “unequal but together” WILL satisfy the SDLP these days.

    One wonder when this positive party support for the ‘A Shared Future’ doctrine was ever discussed at conference… what’s new though.

    Note this from Dolores Kelly in Nov. ’08:

    “The SDLP absolutely rejects the notion that better community relations can be achieved at the expense of equality. Inequality also has costs. Catholics are still more likely to be out of work and for longer, they wait longer for public sector housing and are more likely to leave school with no qualifications. All these inequalities have implications for community relations.

    “The SDLP is the party of equality and civil rights – we believe better relations must be built on a strong foundation of equality.”

    Yet Ritchie mentions equality only once in her entire speech – and even then it is as a ‘past achievement’.

    Equality – a past achievement? Priceless!!!

    Why don’t you tell that to Catholics on housing waiting lists in north Belfast, Conall.

  • Free Ireland

    Jees. I forgot SF was the great champion of equality. Like the way they have agreed to a nationalist never being justice minister. Now that’s equality!

  • Expenses111

    What a load of bull.

    Is this the John Doris who doesn’t speak to people in Downpatrick unless it’s election time?

    Is this the Eddie McGrady who is hiding from the electorate his expenses?

    Quote from Margaret – “I run the largest Department of Government with authority and purpose. I have punched above my weight in an Executive where we are completely outnumbered.”
    Really? Well considering people in DSD think she is a puppet. Also What about the time Robinson shouted at her for raising expectation? What about ignoring legal advise in funding for community groups? What about the winter fuel payments from last year? She was ready to issue payments yet she didnt have the necessary legislation or money.

    I hope the SDLP vote her in. It will ruin the party in 2 years and more importantly show her up for what she is.

  • Wake up Maggie

    Typical SDLP agenda.

    Unable or unwilling to defend Maggie (the SDLP’s very own ‘Iron Lady’) on this thread, the discussion descends by the second comment into an attack on SF.

    If you follow Free(-Market) Ireland’s argument, then you reach the point that Tom Kelly did in yesterday’s Irish News: “Despite Alliance bleats, a shared future is unobtainable when equal opportunity is continually denied to the nationalist community from the executive table down.”

    Ain’t that the point?

    The Alliance-lite wing of the SDLP settles for “unequal but together”… now enough of all this inequality talk, let’s just have a group hug!

  • Pete O’Mahony

    Wake up.

    You are letting the mask slip. You want a one size fits all Ireland when in fact this is a rich a diverse place. We in the South sent you packing in June and you got it again at Lisbon.

    Its SF supporters who continously come on here to troll SDLP posts. You are never visible when one of your own is posting.

    On another matter. Will Caitriona Ruane be making nay public appearances in the near future?

  • Clara

    It would be great to see a woman leader of the SDLP.

    Margaret is bigger then the small boys on this site. Northern politics needs a lot less of the nonsense above and a lot more compasion.

  • Appalled Teacher

    Will Caitriona Ruane be making nay public appearances in the near future?

    After her diabolical rant at Chris Woodhead last night on the BBC programme ‘School Report’ where she made a pathetic exhibition of herself-NO.

    It was cringeworthy stuff, leading Woodhead to remark that she was an embarrassment and that any parent in Northern Ireland should be very worried.

  • Expenses111

    Fact.

    Margaret Ritchie is just like any other politician. I will watch what I say as Mick believes in denying free speech.

  • Turnpike

    “She majors on her vision for the North and a new Ireland.”

    She can kindly keep her vision of a ‘new Ireland’ to herself. Ireland’s problems and our overburdensome public sector are bad enough without adding an unproductive region of the UK to our woes.

  • Wake up Maggie

    Well Pete. I’ll give you one thing. At least some parts of this place are “rich”, and by coincidence they’re also the areas that don’t really mind hugging over latté around the ‘A Shared Future’ doctrine while deliberately ignoring ongoing inequality.

    As for the troll label, give me a break.

    Read this next bit s-l-o-w-l-y:

    *Conall posts Maggie’s speech
    *I respond on a key issue in her speech
    *I point up what I believe are contradictions and flaws in Maggie’s speech
    *I ask when was her position ever adopted at conference
    *I suggest that the decision to relegate equality as an SDLP priority and paint it as a ‘past achievement’ should be explained to those on the housing list in north Belfast

    What sort of engagement do you people actually want. It doesn’t get any more direct and relevant as that. And the issue of Maggie claiming equality is a “past achievement” of the SDLP still hasn’t been addressed, a lá Dolores’ statement above……

  • funnybones

    A very, very, pro unionist shared future vision and a disparaging attitude to the Republic from Ms Ritchie. Disappointing…they say we get the politics we deserve.. probably right. Ghosts from Christmas past too.. Rodgers.. Haughey

    It soon will be the South Down and Lost Party.

  • Pete O’Mahony

    Wake up.

    What would be the point of outlining a vision if it were already party policy? I mean the point of leadership is to take people to new places right?

    I dont undertand yor issues with the shared future approach. Its like you are stuck in 1980’s Thatcher Multiculturalism when the world and the North has moved on. Never mind ignoring the fact that division is costing in excess of £1billion a year in the North.

  • yawn

    Truth seeker. Who was it who stood up to SF and the IRA for 30 years? FF, FG, Lab? NO! It was the SDLP.

    Now have you an opinion on anything Margaret had to say.

    I think its a big speech with lots of new ideas which re worthy of debate.

  • elvis parker

    ‘Both my parents were psychiatric nurses. I myself worked in a care home, where I saw humanity powerfully expressed in the devotion of the staff there, ensuring dignity for those in their care. I grew up in a family in which helping people was second nature.
    That’s what brought me into the SDLP and has kept me there ever since.’

    That’s a good explanation as to why one might enter politics but not why one chose as a vehicle a narrow Catholic nationalist party

  • elvis parker

    ‘Who was it who stood up to SF and the IRA for 30 years? FF, FG, Lab? NO! It was the SDLP.’

    In hindsight and on reflection the answer is actually the security services and in particular MI5

  • The truth is in there

    Truth Seeker – “thats the problem with the sdlp….always looking back at their glorious past.”

    As SDLP members, we can be deeply proud of everything this party has achieved. Peace. Equality. Fairness in housing and jobs. Power-sharing. North South. Reform of policing.
    But let me be clear: what this party delivered thirty, twenty or even ten years ago is for the historians. My only interest is in what the SDLP is going to do now.

    My vision for the future starts with what we have yet to achieve.
    Like it or not, despite our many successes, we have not delivered prosperity. We have not yet succeeded in reconciling the people of the North. And we have not achieved our goal of Irish Unity.
    So it is clear to me that our work is far from done. We now need to focus on building our Economy, reconciling our Society and planning for Unity.

    Maybe if you actually read what Margaret Ritchie said then you could have better spent your time seeking the truth rather than writing inane drivel.

  • paddy

    she didnt say anything about standing up to sf over the justice minister post the sdlp need to adress this or their finished at the polls there will be no call for a leader

  • SDLP member, South Belfast

    I think it would be great to have a Woman leader of the SDLP. Margaret has stood up to the bully boys before, as did Margaret Thatcher, who was a strong role model for young women in politics, regardless of the lies that the IRA peddle about her.
    I also think we should not lose another female in South Belfast.I think we should replace Camel with another woman and look at increasing our Female MLA’s across Northern Ireland.

  • truth seeker

    inane drivel?

    After some rehearsed speech about good work it comes down to abuse!

    As I`ve already said, this board is being over run and polluted by bored grossly obese sdlp wannabe staffers.

    My points are still valid whether you like them or not and to be frank, I find nothing new or even worthy of discussion in the contest between two elderly middle class nonentities for the leadership of your party.

    What you have posted and said was being said 5, 10, 15 years ago by the sdlp? Do you see a pattern?

    The shinners have already stole your clothes and are in the process of isolating as the sdlp did from those who elected them.

    Nationalists deserve fresh new ideas, and only through FF, FG and Irish Labour moving North will we get them.

  • JD

    “Nationalists deserve fresh new ideas, and only through FF, FG and Irish Labour moving North will we get them”.

    Yes and No. Certainally there is a role for Labour here, but the FF/FG divide is not transferable north of the border (indeed the only difference between them may well be that one will be 26 county and the other will be a 32 county organisation – don’t underestimate the partitionist constituency down south!). Perhaps one centre right Nationalist Party in either FF or FGs Euro group.

    Certainally more clearly defined politics would be an improvement. I don’t doubt Richie’s integrity, but she is really trying to tick all the boxes to cover every angle – exactly what the SDLP has being doing for the last decade and failing as a consequence

  • borderlne

    Psychiatric Nursing is the ideal advisory background to being a politician in Northern Ireland.

    The SDLP are the FF of North. They understand the Irish instinct, which is conservative, nationalist and believes in social justice.

    If Ritchie can unite the party, organize it, and play to her leadership strengths, she will do very well methinks.

    She needs a loyal, modern, business team around her.

  • Coll Ciotach

    SDLP are the FF of the north? as a FF supporter in the occupied territory I cab assure you they are not

  • borderscope

    Borderline, “She needs a loyal, modern, business team around her.”

    Problem is she hasn’t got one. She’s got has beens, never were’s and political ahem, ‘veterans’ along with a bunch of professional SDLP staffers, past, present and – they hope – future.

    All McDonald has to do is let Margaret dominate the media for the next two months, that will lose her votes every time.

  • Harry

    I think SDLP need to merge with Fianna Fail as the UUP have done with the Conservatives. FF will find it difficult to get a real base in northern ireland, Sinn Fein are much more republican than FF and they could simply win a few hundred votes in the constituencies they stand in.

    I really do not see what benefit of FF standing in the north is. At least with the Tories, you can understand – if they win MPs, then it will help to their majority at Westminster. Are FF going to contest elections in Northern Ireland and if they win any MPs, they’ll allow N Irish MPs to sit in the Dail? And what about the Northern Ireland Assembly – will they have ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive? There seems to me no real benefit for Irish parties to contest N Irish elections – unless they feel there will soon be a united Ireland – which there won’t be for many a year – thanks to a noteworthy minority of Catholic unionists.

  • borderline

    Coll Ciotach,

    “SDLP are the FF of the north? as a FF supporter in the occupied territory I cab assure you they are not”

    CC, the North stopped being ‘occupied territory’ to FF around about 1985.

    borderscope,
    I suspect you are right. But the first thing a leader does is pick a team.