McGlone rallies the faithful at opening night of SDLP conference

There was relatively little Twitter traffic from the SDLP conference on Friday night. This could just point to the party being gathered together and meeting face-to-face. But given the opportunity for putting out positive messages about their party’s thinking and plans, the low level of news might just point to a much smaller gathering than the masses who turned up for February’s leadership election conference weekend.

In his Friday night speech, SDLP deputy leader and director of elections Patsy McGlone celebrated the party’s three wins at the Westminster election. On Margaret Ritchie’s election:

“The people of south Down taught the minister for education a lesson in representative politics.”

Referring to the north west:

“In Foyle Mark Durkan did what we all knew he would do, he showed Provisional Sinn Fein that Derry people prefer the SDLP.”

And in South Belfast:

“If East Belfast hadn’t played out like a soap opera, the biggest story of election night would probably have been right here in south Belfast, where my good friend Alasdair McDonnell came in with a huge majority.”

SDLP's deputy leader Patsy McGloneMcGlone applauded the injection of fresh volunteers into the canvassing teams coming up to May, new branches being set up, and the opportunities taken over the summer to keep up the campaigning momentum.

He described the SDLP as honest, sincere, ambitious and (increasingly) listening.

“We cannot wait on the media and commentators to catch up with us. A grassroots campaign must start with the grass roots, as the areas where we are most successful have shown. If we go out and connect with the people, and I mean connect with them, not just saying the right things, the swell will arrive before the columnists decide to notice it.”

Addressing the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) strategy, McGlone said:

“We cannot allow our future to become one of ‘Equal, but Separate’. But ‘one-size-fits-all’ isn’t a solution either. Not in education, nor elsewhere.

Nobody, particularly not the first and deputy first ministers, will define who I am. As an Irishman I define my own identity and culture, and as an Irishman I respect diversity and the identity and culture of others.

Cohesion and integration will come about through understanding, co-operation, and respect. Not by attempting to legislate away one culture or another.”

Referring to the recent Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) announcement, he explained that while the SDLP had put forward economic proposals in April 2009, the party was

“in a continuing process of re-examining our economic proposals in order to anticipate changing circumstances. We are listening to the concerns of key sectors in our economy and working with them to develop new and innovative ideas.”

Expect clues at conference, and more detail in a couple of week’s time.

Ivor Whitten has a few thoughts on the first evening over on his Hand of History blog.

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