SDLP leader confirms he will run in European election

By Rebecca Black, Press Association
Colum Eastwood is hoping to overtake the Ulster Unionist Party to win Northern Ireland's third seat in the European Parliament.

The leader of the SDLP has confirmed he will run in the European election.

Colum Eastwood has urged that the election to the European Parliament be regarded as a referendum – the North’s People’s Vote.

The poll comes as the United Kingdom political system is in chaos, unable to agree a deal with which to leave the European Union.

While a majority across the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, there was a majority within Northern Ireland who wish to remain.

Mr Eastwood described the May vote as an “election like no other”.

“In June 2016, a majority of people from communities across Northern Ireland came together to express our clear will that we should remain in the European Union,” he said.

“It was a vote that, unlike many others, saw people break free from their traditional trenches to occupy a common ground and a common identity.

“Since then, the broad progressive coalition that came together has been sidelined and silenced. Without a government in Belfast and with the DUP aligned to hard Brexit fanatics in London, people here have been ignored. Enough is enough.

“This European election should be a referendum – the North’s People’s Vote.

“As the most pro-Europe party in the North and the only party which joined the official campaign against Brexit in 2016, the SDLP will be a strong voice championing our shared values and opposing the destructive ideology that is leading the British Government toward a hard border on this island.”

At the last European election in 2014, the SDLP missed out on winning Northern Ireland’s third seat by less than 2,000 votes.

The three seats went to Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson, the Democratic Unionist Party’s Diane Dodds and the Ulster Unionist Party’s Jim Nicholson.

The former two are running to win back their seats while former Stormont minister Danny Kennedy will run for the Ulster Unionist Party.

Other candidates include Green Party leader Clare Bailey, and the Alliance Party is set to confirm its candidate later.

Mr Eastwood said he believes he is “within striking distance of the third European seat”.

He said a vote for him is a vote for a pro-Europe MEP, and urged everyone who wished to remain to give him their vote, despite their usual party allegiances.

“I’m urging everyone in this election, regardless of how they normally vote, to join the progressive coalition that delivered a Remain vote in 2016 by voting for the SDLP to deliver another pro-Europe MEP to fight our corner,” he said.