14 Aug 2022

SDLP to form official opposition at Stormont

'Opposition to the politics of division, deadlock and failure' – Colum Eastwood

SDLP to form official opposition at Stormont

SDLP to form official opposition at Stormont

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, has announced his party's intention become the official opposition in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Assembly has failed to form and Executive since the May 5 elections, due to the DUP's refusal to engage in the process until its issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol were addressed. 

In a bid to end the political stasis, Mr Eastwood has nominated South Belfast MLA, Matthew O'Toole, as the leader of the official opposition. 

He has also written to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, signalling the party’s intention ahead of the recalled Assembly on Tuesday (July 26).

Colum Eastwood said his party would form an opposition to the politics of division, deadlock and failure.

He added: “Months after the Assembly election, parties have yet to form an Executive. The devolved institutions [have been] frozen while families across Northern Ireland are hit again and again by soaring energy bills.

“More than two months after people were promised change in May’s Assembly election, we still have no new Executive, no new schemes to address soaring energy bills, no new ideas to get the show back on the road. 

“Despite big promises made to get money into people’s pockets and to address the real challenges families are facing, we’ve got more of the same failure that came before.

“That is why I have formally written to the Speaker of the Assembly today informing him that the SDLP will immediately form the Official Opposition at Stormont. We have already provided strong opposition to the Tory/DUP axis at Westminster, now the party will provide a constructive alternative to the politics of division, deadlock and failure that has gripped this place for far too long. We will provide a new kind of politics that addresses the problems facing parents and families across our communities,” said Colum Eastwood.

Colum Eastwood said the SDLP team would hold the provisional Executive to account and provide a radical alternative to the politics of failure. 

He added: “Ministers and politicians taking home full salaries cannot be allowed to hide or fail to account for their decisions while families and businesses across the North struggle to make ends meet.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background, or where you live, people are being badly let down across our communities and it needs to come to an end. The SDLP will provide the alternative to the dysfunction and division holding our people back. Those with power need to use it and give the public fairer services and the better future they need and deserve.”

Matthew O’Toole revealed the first act of the official opposition would be to recall the Assembly this week to end the deadlock which has gripped institutions.

He added: “The deadlock has paralysed government from taking the decisions needed to address the cost of living crisis facing every household in Northern Ireland. 

“Those who have held the democratic institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to ransom cannot be allowed to inflict further pain on our communities while they play cynical power games in London. No more letting them away with it.

“The SDLP has a plan, we have a fully drafted emergency bill that could unlock the millions of pounds resting in Stormont Ministers’ bank accounts and instead put it directly into families pockets. It’s long past time that Ministers collecting their wages, showed us exactly what the public are paying for. The pretence of governing, while delivering nothing for people and communities must end.

“Our opposition to the politics of division and deadlock which has infected Stormont is about transforming this place and the lives of all its citizens. And my appeal to others is that if you’ve had enough of the failure, then join us. We can build something much better together,” said Matthew O'Toole.

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