SDLP Leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said uniting people and building prosperity will be central the party’s Assembly and local government election campaigns.
Speaking at the official campaign launch in the Hilton Hotel in Belfast, where the SDLP unveiled its candidates and programme for government, Ms Ritchie said SDLP ideals and instinct for government and partnership will deliver for the people.
She said, “The SDLP want to see a Northern Ireland that is attractive to business: which takes care of the sick and respects its older citizens; and which is a great place to work and to raise a family.
“To make Northern Ireland that kind of place we must do two things – we must unite people and build prosperity.
“We in the SDLP believe we can unite people by:
* Transforming society so that it is truly shared,
* Leading the New Politics where Partnership replaces carve-up, and by
* Becoming One People, One Island – celebrating our common identity
“And we believe we can build prosperity by:
* Creating jobs in the sectors which offer the greatest growth potential,
* Investing in the education and training of our young people, many of whom have been sold short by our chaotic education system, and
* By delivering better government, overcoming all the Executive stalemates, and radically reforming the public sector.
“We are brimming over with ideas in all of these areas and we intend to debate them in depth and with great confidence in this campaign. It is an exciting prospect – to debate real bread and butter issues – in an election campaign for our own government. Therefore, the central question of this campaign is, who has the ideas and who is best placed to deliver, on uniting people and building prosperity?
“Who has genuine credentials on uniting people? Who can reach out with credibility to build a partnership around difficult issues? Who can map out the pathway to a Shared Future that replaces the discredited OFMDFM strategy, now disowned by even its authors? I say it is the SDLP. I know it is the SDLP.
“In recent days we have seen some high profile conversions to the SDLP position on a Shared Future and even on Shared Education. I’m waiting to see if others will come round to our position on shared housing. Even though these conversions are coming late, after 4 years in government, if they are genuine, then they are welcome.
“Only one Party produced a serious contribution to our debate on finance and the economy. Only one Party showed how the £4billion of cuts from London could be substantially mitigated by what we could do for ourselves, here in the North. It was the SDLP who put substance into this debate.
“I believe the SDLP can broker agreement and end the chaos in education. We can put the collapsed local government reform back on track. The SDLP can mark the way ahead on parading, victims and dealing with the past. The SDLP can manage budgets and make public money go further. The SDLP can lead this next phase of devolution so that it actually delivers.
“SDLP ideas, combined with the SDLP instinct for real partnership. Who can match those qualities?” said Ms Ritchie.
The Local Government Election SDLP Candidates.
The SDLP Down District candidates for the Down District Council area.
Rowallane~ Maria McCarthy and Patricia McKay
Downpatrick~ Peter Craig, Colin McGrath, Gareth Sharvin, Dermot Curran and John Doris
Newcastle~ Carmel O’Boyle, Peter Fitzpatrick and Eamonn O’Neill
Ballynahinch~ Anne McAleenan and Patsy Toman.