Eastwood “I don’t know about you but I’m fed up losing! It’s time we started winning again”

Colum Eastwood launched his campaign to become SDLP leader at The Hive in the centre of Belfast last night. An audience of over 200 people gathered from across Northern Ireland to hear Colum make his first official pitch to oust Alasdair McDonnell as the leader of the party.


In attendance were some of the party’s well known faces such as Alex Attwood, Dolores Kelly and Brid Rodgers and Claire Hanna. Others like John Dallat and Mark Durkan couldn’t be at the launch but expressed support for Eastwood’s campaign.

The Foyle MLA began his speech telling the audience why he joined the party;

I joined the SDLP in 1998 to campaign for a YES vote in the Good Friday Agreement referendum. When you join this party and go out walking the streets in support of this party and its ideals you quickly realise that you are standing on the shoulders of giants.

He argued that it was easier for him to be in the party because of the men and women that came before stood up to violence and ensured that we enjoy a peaceful Northern Ireland today. Although whilst his speech referenced the past, there was an acknowledgement of the challenges currently facing the party;

While we are proud of our past we have to be hungry for progress for our future. As Seamus Mallon said recently, we have to be more than ‘good commemorators’. We have to set out a vision and a path for a more prosperous and fairer future.

Because what good is equality in the workplace if we still have thousands of young people leaving for Australia to find work?

What good is peace when we still live apart?

What good is power-sharing if we have ineffective government?

And what is the point of an Irish dimension that has stalled and stagnated with no credible pathway to unity?

These are the challenges that will be  the work of my generation.

What will his leadership focus on?

Under my leadership our project will be to build a fair, prosperous and reconciled Northern Ireland; and an inclusive, progressive and united New Ireland. These are the twin pillars of my Progressive Nationalism.

However tempting it may sometimes be, we will not indulge the idea that the north is a ‘failed political entity’.

It doesn’t threaten our Irishness or our Nationalism to say that we want Northern Ireland to work. We want to maximise the potential of this place now and we will not sacrifice prosperity and fairness today while we set about the task of persuading for a new Ireland tomorrow.

The SDLP is determined to make the North’s economy work. With credible and practical policies for achieving prosperity for all.

The speech indicated a tack slightly further to the left and an attempt to develop a broader view of Nationalism;

Unfortunately, the height of this Executive’s economic creativity seems to be focussed on one tax lever – Corporation Tax. And while I think it is eminently sensible to harmonise tax policy across Ireland, I am convinced that it would be a pointless and expensive exercise if we don’t invest in the fundamentals of the economy too.

How can we expect to turn our stagnated economy around if we don’t invest in infrastructure right across our region?

Our capital investment of about  £1 billion  per year compares poorly to the South’s plan to spend 27 billion Euro over the next 6 years

How do we expect to attract new high paying graduate jobs if we’re cutting the number of graduates we’re producing?

We will support enterprise to thrive and create wealth and employment.

Equally we will invest the most in those people who need the most investment. Far too many of our people are left behind in the good times and left unprotected in the bad times.

One of the most disappointing failures of recent times has been the slow pace of change when it comes to fostering a deeper and broader understanding between Unionism and Nationalism.

Peace without reconciliation can only take us so far.

This generation of SDLP leaders will set about building practical policies and initiatives to begin to bring our people closer together. Let’s take the rhetoric of peace building and turn it into practical solutions for breaking down the barriers in our daily lives.

On opposition and the party developing in other parts of Ireland;

Let me be clear, there should be a place called opposition. One that is properly resourced and supported. But let me also be clear, the SDLP under my leadership will always seek a mandate to govern….

The nationalism that I espouse is one that moves from being a community to being an all-embracing idea that offers a positive vision for the Ireland of this century free from the shackles of the divisions of the past.

Irish Nationalism should become a demographic of belief rather than a demographic of birth.

We will be persuaders for a new united Ireland.

On that basis, it is right that the SDLP does not contest elections in the South. To grow a consensus we need to be partners with southern parties, not in competition with them. The best interests of the nation should come before the ambitions of any political party.

The closing paragraphs hit subtlety at McDonnell and the frustration of party members as they continue to decline;

I don’t know about you but I’m fed up losing! It’s time we started winning again. And we can. If we start now, if we modernise, if we re-commit to our new project we can win again. My plan is for the renewal of our party and our politics – a new path to a new future.

It will take determination and tenacity.

It will need us to unite and to stay united.

We will have to embrace modern techniques and new ideas.

It will take time. I have time.

Join with me in making this party win again.

, , ,

  • WindowLean

    Lovely stuff Colum, but where do you stand on the border!
    To be serious, it would help if he could describe (and maybe he will in the future) what a “New United Ireland” is.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    I still think the SDLP should merge with a southern partner. I’d vote for SDLP if they were down south, but instead we have a Labour party which is not engaged with a New Ireland agenda ostensibly (as far as I can see). You must assume your responsibilities for Irish people in the 26 counties!! Otherwise, more space will be ceded to SF as it is the sole all-island party.

  • Sharpie

    Can we make a Godwins Law for Northern Ireland? “As an online Slugger discussion grows longer, the probability of a statement involving the border or constitution approaches 1”

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘but I’m fed up losing!

    NI has been losing for decades and not just politically . Still good luck to the man for standing and speaking up for his beliefs . Seems reasonable , intelligent , tolerant , far seeing , patient , understanding etc -an ll round good egg as an English cricket fan might say . And standing for a political party which was to the forefront of democratic change in NI as far back as the 1960’s -what else could he need or what else could go wrong ?

    The problem -he’s in Northern Ireland . If at first you don’t succeed try and try again is a requisite modus operandi for political life everywhere . Mark Twain added that trying again and again was all very well but there’s no need to be a bloody fool about it . Twains sage advice might be more applicable to those on the Unionist benches who continue to fool about while the clock is ticking on their political demise . There are those in the SDLP who fear for the party’s political future . At least Mr Eastwood is not one of them . The only thing they have to fear is fear itself apologies for the tired cliche ;(

  • Kevin Breslin

    I would say Say’s Law applies … Demand creates Supply.

    Even by the 2% Life and Times Survey for immediate unity measures, you’ll just have concede this happening every 50 posts or so.

    Meanwhile if you want to accuse the SDLP of ignoring civic societial issues, you should probably take a look at this “reverse hustings” where the current leader is looking at this with the general public and the commentariat together.

  • Kevin Breslin

    NI has been losing for decades and not just politically

    We’re losing?

    Where’s our No Surrender/Tiocfaidh ár Lá spirit and determination suddenly gone to?

  • 23×7

    If you are fed up with losing then disband and form a N.I. Socialist Party with our unionist brothers and sisters.

  • “To grow a consensus we need to be partners with southern parties, not in competition with them”. I’m looking forward to seeing how Colum Eastwood will operate with his “partners” in Fianna Fáil when they enter the northern electoral scene in 2019.

    He plans for the SDLP to become the “persuaders for a new united Ireland”, yet it seems he needs to first persuade the SDLP itself of Irish unity. According to a LucidTalk poll taken at the 2014 SDLP conference of party members only 42% wanted a border poll, and a mere 54% would even vote for Irish unity.

    Eastwood’s speech was littered with the usual, cliché SDLP rhetoric in reference to Ireland, with talk of the “Irish dimension”, a “positive vision for the Ireland of this century”, “persuading for a new Ireland tomorrow”, and so forth.

    This ad nauseam is an illustration of the SDLP’s token Irish nationalism with their occasional use of the ‘green card’. It is the constant elephant in the room – how can the SDLP be taken seriously regarding an all-Ireland agenda whilst they are nestled within the six counties in continual electoral decline?

  • Ernekid

    The SDLP are like Blockbuster video. They might have been important in the 80s and 90s but these days are totally irrelevant and quite obsolete. They might be able to hang on in there but they will never be able to compete with Netflix

  • Greenflag 2

    Its with the soccer team until the inevitable 😉

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Ulster Union teams doing alright … losing, winning, losing, winning, etc. winning now.

  • chrisjones2

    “Our capital investment of about £1 billion per year compares poorly to the South’s plan to spend 27 billion Euro over the next 6 years”

    Try doing the sums Colum

    On a per capita / land area basis they are much the same. Indeed, if your party colleagues didn’t spend so much time blocking development in NI we might do better

  • Zig70

    To me there looks like an open door to kick in for the SDLP. As my Dad always said about Antrim, ‘I don’t care how good their players are, they don’t know how to win’. I have faith it will happen (Not when it comes to Antrim). I still am reminded how competent Margaret Ritchie looked a week out of the job in an interview. So much more composed. It’s no mean feat to lead a political party.

  • Robin Keogh

    Lol, i think you might need the calculator Chris. There is no comparison, in fact the investment stats between the two regions are worlds apart. Given the higher density of popualtion in the six counties one would expect capital spend to be higher in the north.

  • Robin Keogh

    Every dog has its day and Eastwood might have his. If he can tempt nationalist voters off their seats and into the polling booth again he might give us Shinners a good run for our money and a much appreciated kick in the rump. Moreover, with FF joining the party in 2019 we could see the revival of political nationalism morphing into a serious force toward Irish Unity. By 2019 the electorate will break down along demographic lines approx 45/45/10 assuming voting patterns continue as is. If Eastwood wins the day, his election could mark the beginning of the long awaited for nationalist mobilisation.

  • Acrobat_747

    This will be a great event. I’m definitely for going. I’ve my seat booked.

    Alasdair will be an amazing chair. He’ll give the panellists some grilling.

  • Heather Richardson

    But is there any political equivalent of Netflix? Not in NI, I fear.

  • Granni Trixie

    You left out my personal favourite “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

  • Dan

    I heard Alex Atwood on the news last night. He was choking trying to avoid saying Northern Ireland…think he spluttered out North Ireland.
    Is he ok?

    Perhaps Eastwood could tell his party to come to terms with ‘Northern Ireland’. its long overdue,

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I’d vote for SDLP if they were down south

    Why ?

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I signed up to Netflix a while back. It has none of the latest series or films. There’s some good dramas made for Netflix. But apart from that its poor regarding up to date content.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    It is probably a bit presumptious, but having seen the electoral success of SF as a 32 county party, with little stake in Westminster, I would prefer to have more all-island parties in the future with social democrat bent. I typically vote Labour in the Republic, and would like to see that linked more directly to political parties up north. I realise the SDLP is intricately linked to the particular history of Northern Ireland.

  • Gaygael

    Here is current trends over last few years.


    NATS (SF and sdlp)
    OTHERS (Alliance, Green, PBP, NI21, Socialists, workers)

    Assembly 2007 – 41.4% – 47.6% – 7.5% (lots of U independents that time)
    Europe 2009 – 42.2% – 49% – 8.8%
    Westminster 2010 – 42% – 50.7% – 7.3%
    Assembly 2011 – 41.1% – 46.3% – 9.7%
    Local 2014 – 37.2% – 47.7% – 9.9%
    Euro 2014 – 38.5% – 50.9% – 10.5%
    Westminster 2015 – 38.4% – 50.4% – 10.9%

  • Gingray

    I’ve faith in antrim underachieving

  • Paddy Reilly

    That is because Slugger is a NI discussion board, and NI is not a real country: it is an artificial entity created by a border and a constitution.

    Just as if we had a Cruft’s discussion board, the probability of the discussion centring on dogs is always going to be 1.

  • Sharpie

    Doesn’t mean people have to cut and paste their preferred statement in every other thread. Its one of the reasons nobody can get anything done here = there’s two crazy beliefs (actually three)-

    1. That the border is illegitimate and will go away if we say it enough times and when we have a majority of one

    2. The border is all that is saving us from damnation and its about to disappear the moment we trust them – because they are treacherous and they will murder us in our beds.

    3. He or she who doesn’t subscribe to one of the above is a lily-livered letsgetalongerist who is naive, gauche, and to be derided or pitied.

  • Lord Coleraine

    “I don’t know about you but I’m fed up losing!” He should try joining the Alliance Party in Foyle. At least he knows the joy of being elected.

  • Greenflag 2

    Good points

    1. The border will not go away if there’s ever a majority of one . Nobody knows how /or the actual mechanics of disappearing the border or who if anyone would enforce it’s disappearance . This is an area of uncertainty and imagination

    2 . I’d take the opposite view i.e that the border is what’s keeping the NI economy damned ( not quite but not growth focused either ) i.e predominantly public sector dependent, with low investment and as long as it’s there the economic status quo will remain in place. Even NI nationalists are not immune from the hand of inertia .

    3. I don’t think so . It’s just that in between points 1 and 2 above a kind of twilight zone exists in which all things are possible and yet nothing is possible and at the same time . It’s called future imperfect uncertainty .