Northern Ireland

SDLP ends Stephen Nolan boycott as Westminster election campaign gets underway

Colum Eastwood’s party has refused to appear on the self-styled ‘biggest show in the country’ since March last year

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood criticised the online abuse suffered by Lilian Seenoi-Barr
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood. PICTURE: OLIVER MCVEIGH/PA (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

The SDLP has ended its boycott of Stephen Nolan’s radio show ahead of the forthcoming general election.

Party leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood, who last year wrote to a Westminster committee raising “serious matters” linked to controversies surrounding the BBC presenter, appeared on Mr Nolan’s morning radio show on Thursday.

Broadcaster Stephen Nolan
Broadcaster Stephen Nolan

Mr Eastwood will defend a 17,000-plus majority in Foyle on July 4.

His appearance on the Stephen Nolan’s radio programme comes some 14 months after the party began boycotting the show over its host’s treatment of South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole.

In March last year, Mr O’Toole was cut-off mid contribution during comments about Loyalist Communities Council spokesman David Campbell.

Mr Campbell, a board member of the publicly-funded Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (Afbi), issues statements on behalf of the umbrella body purporting to represent elements of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando.

A BBC investigation into the incident found the broadcaster was justified in cutting off the SDLP representative.

The boycott meant the self-styled ‘biggest show in the country’ was an effective no-go area for nationalist elected representatives, as Sinn Féin has been boycotting the programme since 2020 over its coverage of the Bobby Storey funeral.

The SDLP declined to comment.