Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Executive led by SDLP and UUP 'could provide proper partnership'

By Noel McAdam

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has asked for a second chance for an Executive led by his party and the Ulster Unionists.

Promising to "co-operate and compromise" with the UUP, he argued the two parties would come together "to make Northern Ireland work".

Announcing his list of candidates, he said the March 2 election is "about a DUP party and its special advisers which ran government like their own plaything, and a weak Sinn Fein party that let them away with it".

He told the gathering of hopefuls and party activists at Oxford Island in Craigavon: "I have faced a lot of criticism because I have shown that myself and Mike Nesbitt can, despite our differences, work together.

"I want to make clear today that no amount of criticism will change that commitment. I will stick by it and I stand by it.

"We will co-operate, compromise and, if given the opportunity, we will share power."

Facing his second election test as leader in little over a year, Mr Eastwood argued that the "Irish political equation" always returns to the same solution - the place "only works if nationalism and unionism works together".

"Sinn Fein have mocked the SDLP's willingness to work with our unionist neighbours but it only gives insight into how far they still have to travel," he said.

The Foyle MLA, who defeated Alasdair McDonnell to take over the party just over a year ago, said the election was "a chance to fix the corruption and chaos that come to characterise our Executive".

He added: "Difference doesn't have to mean division -it doesn't have to mean deadlock.

"We are asking people to choose between two parties who have shown that they can't work together or take the chance to choose differently - choose those of us who have shown that we can work together."

In an echoing statement yesterday, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt referred to the need for "a proper partnership founded on making Northern Ireland work".

He added: "The DUP are engaged in a massive game of distraction. This is the same rhetoric which they sold to the electorate last May and look where we are now.

"The only credible way out of this mess is for dramatic change at the heart of our devolved government, with a switch from parties focused on dominating the other, to a proper partnership."

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