Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin and SDLP will both launch manifestos in key Foyle battleground

SINN Féin and the SDLP are both launching their general election manifestos in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SINN Féin and the SDLP are set to launch their general election manifestos in Derry in a move that highlights how crucial winning the Foyle seat is to both parties.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who is contesting the Westminster seat for the first time, is seeking to overturn a slim 169-vote majority that saw Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion claim victory in 2017.

Prior to Ms McCallion topping the poll, Foyle had been held by the SDLP for more than 30 years.

Sinn Féin is scheduled to launch its manifesto in Derry on Monday, while the SDLP is expected to unveil its policy programme in Mr Eastwood's home city on Wednesday.

Commentator Chris Donnelly said Sinn Féin's decision to choose Derry both for its manifesto launch and recent ard fheis was "no real surprise".

He said the party's defeat of former SDLP leader Mark Durkan at the last Westminster election "came as a shock" and it would privately acknowledge that holding the seat will be a "very tough task".

"Elisha McCallion will continue to be given a high profile from the party right up until the ballots are cast on December 12," he said.

Mr Donnelly, a former Sinn Féin election candidate, said the SDLP believes it could regain the seat.

"The loss of the party's Foyle citadel was a real low point, but regaining it would represent a comeback and vindication of Colum Eastwood's leadership, not least if, as expected, he is returned alongside the party's South Belfast candidate Claire Hanna," Mr Donnelly said.

"On the other hand, should Eastwood fail to win out, it would represent a crushing blow to the SDLP leader and one from which he'd struggle to recover."

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