Northern Ireland news

Colum Eastwood earmarked as SDLP European candidate

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is said to be “actively considering” standing in the European election

COLUM Eastwood was last night emerging as the most likely SDLP candidate to contest the European election.

Senior party sources indicated to The Irish News that the SDLP leader and Foyle MLA was “actively considering” standing in the May 23 poll.

The decision by former leader Mark Durkan to contest the European election for Fine Gael in Dublin, coupled with former Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna resigning the whip over the party’s ties with Fianna Fáil, has left the SDLP with limited options for a high-profile candidate.

Sinn Féin and the DUP are expected to see their two MEPs returned comfortably if the election goes ahead, but some observers believe there is a strong possibility the third seat could go to a non-unionist for the first time.

Mr Eastwood would likely benefit from some votes from unionists disillusioned by the pro-Brexit stance adopted by the Ulster Unionists since the 2016 referendum.

The UUP's Jim Nicholson has ruled out standing for re-election, with former Stormont minister Danny Kennedy to seek the party's nomination.

A senior SDLP source last night said: “Colum is actively considering standing for Europe.

“This is a critical election, those in leadership positions need to step up – this is the north's People's Vote.”

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