Northern Ireland news

Colum Eastwood canvasses for Euro election with former SDLP Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna

Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna canvassing together in south Belfast

SDLP sources have said they are optimistic that leader Colum Eastwood can reconcile differences with the party's South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna after the pair went canvassing together yesterday.

Ms Hanna resigned as SDLP Brexit spokeswoman in February after the party formalised links with Fianna Fáil.

She was alone among the SDLP's assembly team in not signing a letter urging members to back the proposed partnership with Micheál Martin's party.

A long-time opponent of greater links with Fianna Fáil, the South Belfast representative characterised the link-up as a merger.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood with his Fianna Fáil counterpart Micháel Martin as they announce formal links between the two parties in February. Picture by Mal McCann

"I recognise fully the SDLP’s electoral decline and the changed dynamic in politics here but, respectful of the leadership’s intentions, think this merger solves neither problem," she said at the time.

A party source said he was hopeful that Mr Eastwood and Ms Hanna spending the afternoon together canvassing for his European election bid would help the pair resolve their differences.

"She understands that this election isn't about personalities but is about Brexit and the damage that will do – that's why she's out on the streets supporting Colum," a source said.

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