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SDLP have role to play in future of Good Friday Agreement

7 April 2018

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Labour Party Leader and spokesperson on Northern Ireland, Brendan Howlin TD, has said the role of the SDLP cannot be forgotten both in terms of the legacy of the agreement and the future opportunities.

Commenting on this week’s speculation about the party Deputy Howlin said:

"The SDLP has always been a broad church with members drawn from both the nationalist and social democratic traditions on the cisland. There is no news there. From our perspective, I know how important the party's membership of the Party of European Socialists, and its alliance with both the Irish and British Labour Parties, was to John Hume as he did the international ground work for the peace process. But, SDLP members in my experience are first and foremost SDLP people, whatever their position on politics in the Republic might be.

“I remain convinced that the people of Northern Ireland need a strong and constructive social democratic vision to tackle their economic problems. People interested in solving problems not just articulating them. There is no reason why Northern Ireland should lag behind the Republic in terms of jobs and growth. But if your politics that are led by parties unprepared to work your democratic institutions that is what happens.”

Calling on both the Taoiseach and Prime Minister May to get involved to get the Northern Ireland institutions back on track, the Labour Party Leader said:

“Both the Irish and British governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, are at fault here. Leo Varadkar and Teresa May talk about talking often enough. It is time they put the restoration of the power-sharing institutions, the most meaningful way to celebrate the Good Friday Agreement; 20th anniversary, at the top of their agenda.

“The SDLP tradition of dialogue and discussion is so important. And why it will be necessary into the future if we are to achieve our ambition of an agreed Ireland..

Speaking ahead of the upcoming Tyrone Westminster by-election, Deputy Howlin offered the Labour Party’s support, the the SDLP’s candidate, Daniel McCrossan:

“The problem thrown up by Brexit is a united Ireland problem. Currently, Ireland’s interests on Brexit are being discussed in a parliament where the voice and needs of Ireland are not being represented. Expenses are being drawn, leaflets are being published, but the business of representing constituents is not.

“In the absence of any Northern Ireland opposition to the DUP’s propping up of the Conservatives in Parliament, it is vital to have a nationalist Irish voice in Westminster.

“Let us be clear, the whole of Ireland, not just Tyrone, need Daniel McCrossan at Westminster.”