Colum Eastwood new leader of the SDLP (updated with interview)

Colum Eastwood new SDLP leaderLeadership: Eastwood 172 (56%) – 133 (44%) McDonnell

Deputy leadership: McKinney 158 (53%) – 138 (47%) Kelly

In an emotional speech, runner up Alasdair McDonnell said that he’d “given his all and then a little bit more” to the leadership of the party. He thanked his family who “soldiered with him” and received a long standing ovation as he finished: “I’m gone – though not far away – it’s over to others to keep going”. The defeat had clearly hit him hard.

New leader Colum Eastwood gripped the podium and gripped the delegates in the hall in a way that would have been welcome at lunchtime. He paid generous tribute to the work of his predecessor saying that McDonnell had “stretched every fibre of his being for this party” and contributed “two lifetimes” of effort.

On the SDLP, Eastwood said “people are right to expect more of us”. Discussions had centred to much on the party and he promised:

Our principle conversation will be shaping this region and this country for the next 20, 30 and more years.

He finished his ten minute address:

It’s time to win again.

David McCann spoke to Colum soon after the result.

Earlier in the somewhat haphazard announcement of the results, the new deputy leader Ferghal McKinney spoke about his vision for the more active role of deputy leader and criticised those who had leaked party documents to the media. (Defeated deputy leader Dolores Kelly didn’t have a chance – or didn’t take the opportunity – to speak.)

SDLP Conference 2015 new leader Colum Eastwood and Deputy Leader Fearghal McKinney

Photo Carrie Davenport for SDLP.

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  • mushroom man

    Sdlp doing too little too late. Sf is the party of young nationalists for ages now and unlikely to change. Sdlp is old and tired but Sf are cool and swick to

  • Acrobat_747

    I think if you look at the age profiles Sinn Fein is beginning to look like the party of old grey men. SDLP is getting younger and sharper looking.

    I’ve a feeling that the tide of nationalist politics is beginning to turn in Northern Ireland.

    Colum Eastwood is going to put extraordinary pressure on Sinn Fein. People are yet to actually realise how good a communicator Eastwood is. I’ve no doubt that over the next few years the old grey men of Sinn Fein will be really up against a new young SDLP. It will take time. But I really think it’s starting to happen.

  • Ernekid

    Eastwood has a hell of job in front of him. He’ll be lucky if he still has over 10 MLAs after the election. People need a real reason to vote SDLP. He needs to provide one pretty sharpish. Keeping in the Executive with an anonymous minister in the DoE isn’t good enough anymore.

  • Ernekid

    He didn’t seem like a great communicator on the View the other night. I’d say he’d struggle in a head to head debate with his closest equivalent in Sinn Fein Pearse Doherty. There’s lots of young people across Ireland coming up in the ranks in Sinn Fein. The Sinn Fein Veterans in the Old Felons clubs will be pushed into retirement over the next few years.

  • Peter L

    Makes no difference to me as a Roman Catholic.Political parties that support abortion,same sex marriage,contraceptive mindsets and offer no objection to hardcore pornography being streamed into our homes is a no no to me.

    I long for a day when the north of this country will have a Catholic political party that I can vote for.

    Until then,I abstain.

  • Zig70

    I’m not sure if your post is a p*ss-take. That’s a heavy wish list. Abortion is a minefield as it deals with the death of an unborn, same sex marriage has plenty of opponents within the church but they aren’t being asked to have marriages in the church and as Pope Francis said ‘Who am I to judge’. Contraception though, nobody listens to that. Seed on barren ground and all that rubbish. Sure you’ll lose it in your sleep if you don’t get rid of it another way. You are such a small demographic I think even the SDLP could afford to overlook those principals. As for porn, get a filter on your router and that will stop you watching it. If you have BT they can set it.

  • Robin Keogh

    And congratulations to the lad I hope he has and inventive and exciting future ahead of him. It is great to see new blood coming to the front of such an esteemed political machine. He has his work cut out for him but he also has a lot of new blood with new ideas by his side. Hopefully he will be the dog with the bark to wake up nationalism.

  • chrisjones2

    Adams? McGuinness? McLaughlin?

    I could go on and on

    And then there are the Army Council pulling the strings from above. How many of them are now under 60?

  • chrisjones2

    “The Sinn Fein Veterans in the Old Felons clubs will be pushed into retirement over the next few years.”

    We will let you tell them that then.

  • chrisjones2

    With that Profile its simple….vote DUP and you will get a flat earth and biblical truth thrown in as well (but not trans-substantiation) . They are also quite flexible on numbers 7 to 10 but then so has the Catholic Church been

  • kalista63

    Why is Fearghal holding his arm up?

  • kalista63

    Betya £50 I know what Jim Allister’s reaction will be, in the Assembly

  • kalista63

    Could not agree more and the same goes for the other main parties. How many characters have came and went since they all rose to the top, in Westminster, the Dail and every other western nation?

  • Ernekid

    If you look at the SF candidates for upcoming Dáil elections they’ve got a lot of new younger talent coming through. They’ve been good at building candidates in the Councils and through the EU elections. In the North the old lags are being gradually replaced through co-option. Sinn Fein will soon be led by Mary Lou McDonald in the South and Conor Murphy in the North. Gerry will be wheeled out on the parties high days and holidays so the party faithful can pay homage to the president emeritus for life.

  • kalista63

    Noy getting at ya but Pearse, the guy that didn’t anticipate the nationalist question on Nolan, a couple of weeks ago? He and Claire Hanna were a total scunder to nationalism.

  • kalista63

    And as a SF voter, we need a clean out. There’s a movement in GB which we could/should be a part of but we can’t because of Marty and Gerry. The people of n Belfast don’t need Gerry Kelly (of whom I’m a big fan) standing to remind voters who we are and where we came form, unionists will do that for us. We need kids that our kids connect to

  • Ulick

    Of course you are assuming the important battle is going to be between SF and the SDLP. Its not, it’s between nat/rep and unionists. The reality is there are not very many swing voters between SF and SDLP but there is a large swathe of nationalists who are not voting at all. It’s is the SDLP who are best placed at the moment to get these people out and increase the overall nat/rep share of the vote. SF won’t be quaking in their boots at the “new face of the old guard” in the SDLP but it may give unionists some cause for thought considering the implications of the overall nationalist vote share recovering.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    nationalism is asleep ?

  • Croiteir

    See – told you so. we are not being represented

  • Robin Keogh

    Go on?

  • Croiteir

    Flat earth? now that is simply not biblical

  • murdockp

    The glimmer of light here is people know socialism does not work.

  • murdockp

    Am surprised sdlpsupporter a man with a fork in a world of soup has not commented yet.

    All I can say is drop the United Ireland stuff, move the centre and become pro business and I will vote for yor.

  • Peter L

    “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However,
    when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

    Luke 18:8These people don’t have faith in Christ and reject His offer of salvation.Their choice.

  • murdockp

    Not all doom and gloom. The up and coming sf have never worked a day and are socialists.

    The electorate mostly works. As I see it getting non voters to vote will get you back as a large party. Note I have deliberately not used the word nationalist as I feel we are moving away from this sectarian shit.

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont agree at all, Pearse was heckled by Nolan from the moment he started speaking.

  • Robin Keogh

    Apart from the first bit you make it sound wonderful

  • Robin Keogh

    Ha, dream on.

  • Robin Keogh

    Zzzzzzzzzzz

  • Peter L

    Some people reject Christ’s offer salvation.Good luck to you.

  • Croiteir

    Become unionists in other words – aye – right

  • Gingray

    Lol rare to hear a Catholic refer to themselves as a roman catholic – usually only hard core unionists or protestant bible thumpers. Generally a good give away.

    So I think auld Peter L may be a wind up merchant, albeit a poor one.

  • Robin Keogh

    And good luck to you too. Personally i prefer to focus on allowing people to live their lives as they see fit and vote accordingly. We will all meet our maker on judgement day and I am willing to chance it that caring about the freedom of all Gods creatures might get me through the door. If the rules you apply are truly those of God, then that God is an evil maleficant.

  • Ernekid

    I’ll vote for the DUP if they support gay rights, a United Ireland and a women’s right to choose.

  • murdockp

    no not at all . just have a sit on the fence position and let the people decide when the time is tight.

  • Peter L

    I apply no rules,I am nothing but the dirt that God created me from and you from.I don’t have any rules.Only the rules that God gave us,the rules that you reject.

  • Robin Keogh

    No, i reject your interpretation of ‘Gods Rules’

  • Neil

    A few random examples of old politicians there, well done. I suppose it saves you from making an argument based on an actual verifiable fact which is handy, and Mitchel has just announced his impending retirement, so of the 3 shots at goal that one’s gone over the bar. For the remainder it’s nice to see you approach the issue on a 32 county perspective, however in reality what you have provided is one elderly politician, north and south (one at and one slightly under retirement age).

    Here, for the fun of it, is an actual verifiable piece of evidence: http://politicalreform.ie/2011/03/31/election-2011-an-age-old-story-an-age-profile-of-the-31st-dail/

    This piece of evidence supports my claim which is: SF are the second youngest party which contested the latest Dail election.

    I could go on and on

    Please don’t. As an alternative how about presenting your opinion and some supporting evidence instead?

  • Dominic Hendron

    “refuse to be a mudguard for the problem parties”

  • Gaygael

    Good luck to Colum and well done.

    I haven’t heard too much of what ‘progressive nationalism’ looks like. I expected more of what that meant in policy terms. But let’s give him 100 days and see. Late february. Perfect time for a review of his new leadership and just in time for the election campaign.

    He seems bullish and confident about holding the two in Belfast south and upper bann. Yet at the same time he said he wasn’t going to predict a seat number after previous bullishness which saw him claim they would win a European seat. Admittedly I thought there was a very outside chance for the SDLP, and that was based on a perfect storm amidst the unionists and a solid score from them. The sdlp had their worst ever euopean election result instead.

    He seemed to infer the branches needed reform. Was this to continue what alisdair had been doing or is this starting anew? What about the wee man from strabane? he was a big al supporter, and the other camp that wanted 2 candidates supported Eastwood. Shall we expect another candidate on the ticket? SDLP have over selected before here, disastrously in 2007, with 3 candidates scrapping together a quota but failing to get elected.
    They have yet to select in north Belfast. For a seat that needs properly defended, it seems to be leaving it late.
    South is called and Hanna has been busy in the media and ferghal is now deputy leader so his profile should boost.
    Alex has a lot to do in west but I have a feeling Gerry Carrols transfers will see him safe.
    He didn’t mention any gains, and hasn’t as far as I’m aware. Big al was talking strangford, the antrim seats and FST which was just ludicrous.
    What does success look like for Colum? Holding 14? Minimising losses? Making any gains? Halting expected decline? Getting back up to 14.2%?
    From what I’m hearing, I t’s of digging in and holding on and minimising any losses that recent electoral decline may suggest. Was it his camp that leaked the 5 seat losses (with no reference to Foyle)? Preparing the ground for a hit? The line in May, we were predicted to lose five and we didn’t? Hmm….

    Mike did say he would have to shrink to grow….. When he lost McNarry, McCrea and Mcallister. Is Colum thinking the same?

    I think that’s sensible. Dig in and hold on as best as possible. Then he has a solid three years to build and carve out his own destiny. If I was advising him; Make an all Ireland link and (appeal to unionists alike with a uk labour link), and steer the party in a more social democratic way. Allow the conservative nationalists to drift to FF when they come north. Go into opposition and make better links with the potentially resurgent UUP as a proper opposition to the DUP/SF axis, and prepare for 2019 and Europe.

  • Granni Trixie

    Apart from the ageism in your response it is simplistic.

  • Granni Trixie

    If only.

  • Granni Trixie

    Can’t help noticing that you do not list anti sectarianism or even non political violence in your preferred list of attributes which would make you want to vote. Says it all?

  • Granni Trixie

    Sorry Gngray but as I ‘think’ of myself as an ex RC I disagree with your statement.

  • Skibo

    Peter, are you wearing someone elses clothing. You will be the first Catholic I ever heard relate to themselves as Roman Catholic and some of your comments below would give me the impression of a born-again-Christian.

  • Skibo

    GT would the ex RC not be more to do with your rebirth in another religion and come from the biblical teachings of your new house.

  • Granni Trixie

    As a supporter of two of those I am disappointed at your list of what’s Importent to you. As previously stated anti sectarianism and anti political violence are on my list of must haves.

  • whatif1984true

    People swung from SDLP to SF. They can change their mind again. Please don’t say NEVER.

  • Granni Trixie

    You jokin’?
    Believe it or not I left the church (so to speak) because I was disillusioned….too idealistic I expect. Disappointed if I have come across as belonging to
    any church/religion.

  • Skibo

    Is Dolores Kelly’s hand of friendship to the UUP a voting strategy to hold onto her seat especially now that she has lost her deputy leader position?
    Will Ferghal’s rise to deputy leader affect Claire Hanna’s chances of getting elected in S Belfast?

  • Jack Stone

    Doesn’t Conor Murphy have a whiff of cordite?

    Also, what makes you think Mary Lou will soon take over leadership in the North (2-3 election cycles is a long time)? Couldn’t Aengus Ó Snodaigh or Pearse Doherty give her a bit of a challenge?

  • Croiteir

    Nope – ye get a split hole doing that

  • Croiteir

    Sniif of armpit?

  • Gaygael

    I didn’t hear what delores said. 2011 saw her scrape in. If SF balance well and she doesn’t hold closer to her 2011 score rather than the 2015 Westminster she could be in trouble. Her pitch should be to alliance voters, in that they can’t get a seat but she can rather than another SF.
    SF votes dropped at Westminster marginally and they weren’t really competitive for the Westminster seat despite the hype.

    I think Fergals move to deputy has a number of factors. Of course it’s about ensuring his seat is safer with his improved seniority. It could also be a sop to the alisdair faction. It could also be about positioning himself for future leadership should Eastwood not deliver. But he needs to get elected. Claire Hanna scored well in balmoral and that’s her territory. The SDLP split will be interesting.

    In 2011 the split 14% and 9.9% and in 2007 14.4% and 12.4%, which was much better. Early out I had them splitting 22%, probably 13/9.

  • Jack Stone

    I hope the SDLP uses this as an opening to coordinate with British Labour and maybe even Irish Labour. A provincial party will struggle to get news which is not connected Sinn Fein.

    I think the SDLP biggest problem is that both Sinn Fein and the SDLP are trying to pull the same leftist voters (much like the UUP has started to pivot towards the center) and perhaps the SDLP needs to move either to the left of Sinn Fein (yikes) or to actually have policies which are different.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Ummm, flat earth is an idea from scientists of the time, not the bible.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “South is called and Hanna has been busy in the media and ferghal is now deputy leader so his profile should boost” I think Sleepy Old South Belfast will be one of the most interesting constituencies in the next Assembly Elections. I can see one of the DUP (Bell, Pengally) or SDLP (McKinney, Hanna) taking a knock out blow here ! There are 4 Bankers in the constituency 1-DUP 1-SDLP 1-Alliance 1-SF Leaves a scrap for the last 2 seats. DUP, SDLP, Alliance, UUP, Greens, UKIP all going for them last 2 seats. I am going to see what odds I get for Greens and UUP ?

  • chrisjones2

    Which God? Which prophet do you follow?

  • chrisjones2

    …well the electorate mostly are

  • chrisjones2

    Thats a shocking admission of failure by SF innit!

  • chrisjones2

    This is like an episode of Casualty on TV

    It started with a political car crash (the SDLP). The patienjt is wheeled into hospital where the old and wise doctor opines that there’s not much they can do – DNR and palliative care until they pass peacefully into the long night.

    Then in strides the cocky new registrar determined to turn things around and by SDLP Conference 2016 ……..

  • Reader

    Yep, you would need to go to the four corners of the world to find a biblical reference to a flat earth.

  • mickfealty

    And that’s exactly what Big Al predicted you guys would be saying Ulick lunchtime yesterday. Colum can expect an almighty sectarian squeeze. But what he needs to do is reframe the arguments around the lack of delivery to the west (SF foolishly put all those eggs in the A5 basket, and is camped against development of of the NS interconnectors). And to the country generally.

    His age is something, but he needs to do something with it. Getting past the media gatekeepers will be a key skill. And he has impressed in the last few outings. Most of all he must remember it is not the job of the SDLP to hold the DUP to account. That’s SF job. As the smaller party it’s the SDLP’s hold the bigger nationalist party to account for its serial failures.

  • mickfealty

    That’s what Stephen does. Did you not see Deenihan? [Btw, you are back in after a red. Do I have to explain the rules again?]

  • Robin Keogh

    Corrected

  • Robin Keogh

    All parties are responsible Mick. Dysfunction in the Assembly is a problem for politics in general, they all need to find a way to break the stalemates and inaction caused by the intransigience of many within the broader unionist family. The SDLP identified this through Allisdair himself in his comments recently and Eastwood needs to be vocal (more vocal than SF has been ) that unionist constant blocking abd wrecking will not go unchallenged by the party anymore.

  • Robin Keogh

    Doherty is popular

  • GEF

    “I’ve a feeling that the tide of nationalist politics is beginning to turn in Northern Ireland.”

    Now wouldn’t that be interesting if SDLP became the bigger nationalist party and UUP voters who changed to DUP some time ago all came back to vote for the Ulster Unionist Party once again.

  • Croiteir

    Now now – don’t be all paamouth with me. You know as well as I that the Bible describes the world as a globe and the flat earth stuff was only introduced by Washington Irving

  • Slater

    Are the voting figures for the deputy job a secret or just not being publicised?

  • chrisjones2

    The DUP think she has the right to choose ….she can make tea or coffee with their sandwiches

  • chrisjones2

    Yes sorry …you are all right. They used to lock people up and occasionally burn them for suggesting that earth wasn’t the centre of the universe not that it wasn’t flat. Much more enlightened
    MInd you many of the DUP are still flat earthers

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I remember when Gerry Adams didn’t know what the rate of VAT was in the Irish republic, and I constantly feel scundered for the Shinners when they make their contradictory and totally amateur economic “arguments” for reunification.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    this is ridiculous. Just because a person chooses to keep their opinions about uniting Ireland to themselves – that’s all the SDLP need to do – does not mean they are a unionist.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Thank Christ you’re abstaining. We’ve enough problems as it is.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    typical Robin. He says they need to “wake up nationalism” and then can’t defend the obvious implication of this.

  • Croiteir

    An individual can – or not – that is up to them, but a political party keeping quiet on what is one of the defining features of politics in the region? That is absurd.

  • kalista63

    It’s just that I thought Fearghal was Team McDonnell

  • kalista63

    The INLA. Funeral thing.

  • Robin Keogh

    Oh ya I forgot about that

  • Dominic Hendron

    No-one with any sense believes in some euphoric UI or talks about it as a defining issue except dissidents and certain unionists making a point of opposing it; most people are too busy with living. SDLP reflect that, always have

  • Croiteir

    No-one with any sense? lots of people with no sense then. It defines our politics.

  • Croiteir

    Perhaps he is Team Fearghal?

  • Croiteir

    Who did that?

  • Kevin Breslin

    A large number of Young nationalists are not voting for either, look at the turnout declines in the two youngest constituencies that happen. Ironically it’s the departure of Hume and Adams that is driving this.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Since when are the media gatekeepers? Our local media make the politicians look competent.

    The fact that we’ve lost Hearts and Minds and gained the Nolan Show shows the decline in the influence that the Alex Kanes, Malachi O’Dohertys and Newton Emerson’s actually have.

    The Days of I you ask me are over folks, you lot are the answer to a question no one asked!

    Fair enough to the Mikes, Eammons and Fearghals giving politics ago aside.

    Newspapers are declining, Blogs are full of self opinionated and don’t get me started on the flame wars on Slugger O’Toole and Politics.ie.

    If our media think they are the gatekeepers to the votes on the streets, what exactly have they been doing for the last twenty years while turnout overall has declined?

    They are killing their own industry and shooting their own feet with their boring cynical attitudes.

  • Dominic Hendron

    I was talking about ordinary people and you better widen your definition if you want to speak to them

  • Kevin Breslin

    It’s a fair criticism, and both of them rather than engage in a rehearsed evangelicalism spoke off the top of their heads. It would have been nice to ask Arlene and Mervyn what being part of the Union had to offer to the RTÉ audience and panellists other than economic convenience, to some young people emigrating from it they don’t believe that to be the case.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t fancy my former TD Aengus, I’d put him below Martina Anderson and John O’Dowd, if we are talking two or three election cycles Daithí McKay and Michelle O’Neill in the North with one of the young MEPs taking over in the South.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Are the DUP really going to risk Bell and Pengelly in South Belfast, I really hope they do. That isn’t a problem for the SDLP, it’s a rallying cry for the UUP and other unionists. Personally I don’t think the DUP will shun their grassroots by doing that. Westminster is a different competition and there’s already open revolt in the DUP about the lack of meritocracy.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I tend to agree with you Kev it is too high risk for the DUP. Pengelly is already doing a lot of constituency work and networking in South Belfast. Bell will stay in safe Strangford, However I also see a big risk for SDLP gaining 2 MLAs, although they got 9560 Votes in 2015 Westminster Elections I also agree with you that Westminster is a different type of election than an Assembly Election and I believe that the core SDLP vote is about 7734 votes as per 2011 Assembly Elections. I don’t think this is enough to secure them 2 MLAs from this constituency ?

  • murdockp

    meanwhile the centerist and those on the right don’t vote at all.

  • murdockp

    a split vote. you mean a very small number divided by 2

  • murdockp

    but he hasn’t been elected leader of an esteemed political machine unless I have missed something

  • murdockp

    die hard catholics have a political party you can vote for. the are called the DUP

    God first nationality second.

  • Croiteir

    So was I – perhaps our ordinary differs.

  • Croiteir

    That too – either way it is not a charming scenario

  • Kevin Breslin

    There is a risk but that’s part of life and politics, Hanna and McKinney have been involved in the South Belfast constituency campaigns, they’ve both had a go in a Westminster one, you have two candidates who will go everywhere and anywhere for the party. I don’t know the machinations of the people of South Belfast but I’ve been a resident there for six years studying. Both Eastwood and McDonnell will have their roles in South Belfast too. I think Alasdair focusing full time on being the MP and constituency worker on that basis might help the SDLP in a way too. There are enough in Foyle and in Eastwoods campaign to fill in while he is helping out in other constituencies as leader.

  • Dominic Hendron

    I haven’t discerned a appetite for flags among ordinary people

  • Kevin Breslin

    I really don’t think so. The delusion that parties decide elections by gathering up “their voters” into a polling room needs to be shot down. Here’s a shocking truth … Voters have free will and independent thinking abilities.
    In terms of transfers, why shouldn’t a party maximise its transfers?