Pat Hume joins list of Eastwood leadership backers

 SDLP leadership candidate Colum Eastwood with Pat Hume, wife of party founder and former leader John Hume. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

COLUM Eastwood has secured the backing of another significant party figure as he battles Alasdair McDonnell for the SDLP leadership.

Pat Hume, wife of former party leader John Hume, revealed she was backing the former Derry mayor less than 48 hours before the vote at the SDLP's annual conference in Armagh.

The symbolic endorsement from the wife of the SDLP's foremost icon came as bookies shortened the odds on Dr McDonnell, putting him on the same odds as his challenger at 5/6. Just over a week ago Mr Eastwood (32) was odds-on favourite to win the contest with the 66-year-old South Belfast MP an outsider at 5/2. However, it appears there has since been significant backing for the incumbent, who has led the party since November 2011.

The wife of the former SDLP leader and Nobel Laureate said she and her husband would be voting for change at the head of the party, though Mrs Hume chose not to elaborate publicly on her decision.

Mr Eastwood said he was "deeply honoured" to have Pat Hume's support.

He said he first got involved in politics almost 20 years ago because of John Hume and had been greatly inspired by the former Foyle MP, who also figured prominently in the civil rights movement.

"They have both given their all for our party and our country, and I am determined to keep alive the flame they and others lit during our darkest years," the Foyle MLA said last night.

"They stood for fairness, equality, justice, peace and progress – these are my values too."

Mr Eastwood said the SDLP had much to offer and had a critical role to play in Irish society.

"We are proud of all the party has achieved, but our sights must now be firmly set on the work ahead," he said.

"Once again the SDLP can become the party people look to for strong, determined leadership. We can set the agenda for politics, making a lasting difference for the people we serve."

Mr Eastwood launched his leadership campaign at the end of September following months of speculation. To date his campaign has been endorsed by leading party members, including Seamus Mallon, Brid Rodgers and Foyle MP Mark Durkan.


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