SDLP manifesto highlights poverty and lack of opportunity
TACKLING poverty and lack of opportunity have been highlighted by the SDLP in its local government election manifesto.
Party leader Colum Eastwood was joined by deputy leader Nicola Mallon and candidates from across the north at the launch at Derry's Playhouse yesterday.
The SDLP identified public services, health, education and housing as key issues for voters as well as the need to fight Brexit and defend LGBT+, Irish language and disability rights.
Mr Eastwood said there was a need to make politics work in light of the murder last week of journalist Lyra McKee and this could be done through power-sharing, partnership and reconciliation, things the SDLP had always stood for.
“We absolutely and totally need to take the poison out of politics," he said.
"If we can learn anything from this last week, the rhetoric of politicians has an effect; it has an effect. You can't one day say no confidence in police, then the next day condemn people shooting at police officers.
“We have a responsibility as politicians; we have a responsibility as elected people in our community to take the poison out of politics and to bring people back together again.”
Mr Eastwood said the underlying problems in society were poverty, hopelessness and lack of opportunity and many issues could be dealt with through attention to infrastructure.
“Of course, councils don't deal with all of that but they can be a convening power to represent what the interests of the people are in those particular areas. We also believe there should be an anti-poverty strategy in each and every individual council.”
The SDLP leader highlighted plans for City Deal economic packages in Belfast and Derry as a means of dealing with poverty.
In a series of pledges, the party - which is running 85 candidates - promised to defend the Brexit backstop and ensure there was a Brexit committee on every council in the north.
It also said it would tackle mental and physical health issues as well as the need to fund education.
The manifesto also contains a pledge to propose dedicated planning officers to process social housing new-builds and deal with the rising homelessness.
Such officials would ensure that social housing plans did not become stuck in planning processes.
Mr Eastwood also highlighted the need to defend the vulnerable against the damage caused by welfare reform.
“We have a choice, a very clear choice. People can continue supporting failed politics or they can vote for people who will go to work; they can vote for people who want a government; they can vote for people who want to tackle crisis in our health service, in our education systems; they can vote for people prepared to stand up and do something to protect our communities and our businesses against Brexit.
“That's what the SDLP offer,” he said.