Who is Colum Eastwood?

Colum Eastwood, you may not know that much about him, but he is the man set to take on the sitting SDLP leader, Alasdair McDonnell. If memory serves me right, I think he is the first person to challenge a sitting SDLP leader. I know Patsy McGlone was preparing to challenge Ritchie in 2011 but she stepped aside before anything got going.

Eastwood has been active in elected politics for a decade now, being elected to Derry City Council in 2005 and serving as Mayor of Derry in 2010. At the age of just 27, he is the youngest Mayor in the city’s history.

Following his election to the Assembly in 2011, Eastwood became the assembly private secretary to then Environment Minister, Alex Attwood. He did get into some bother over his attendance of enviroment Committee in 2013, but he argued that it would be a conflict of interest for him to scrutinise a minister that he was working with.

MLAs had protested to the party leader that this conflict existed but McDonnell did not act to resolve the issue.

Since then Eastwood has been a high-profile member of the party in Derry and it was hoped by some people in Sinn Fein during the SPAD bill debate that Eastwood would support a petition of concern, but he ended up abstaining with his party colleagues.

Should he be successful, Eastwood will be the third leader to hail from Derry and the youngest. He is generally seen as a much greener politician than the current leader and I would expect a more left-wing turn under his leadership.

In 2013, Eastwood did an interview on The View which gives you a sense of how he might approach the decline of the SDLP;


David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs