Belfast Telegraph

SDLP launches election campaign

The SDLP has launched its election campaign with a pledge to work together to make Northern Ireland a better place.

Leader Margaret Ritchie said the killing of Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh on Saturday highlighted how important co-operation is.

The nationalist party is running 28 Northern Ireland Assembly candidates in all 18 constituencies plus 150 for local government. Around a fifth are aged under 30 and the party includes candidates from Poland, Lithuania and Portugal.

Ms Ritchie said: "Very recent events have served to show us in a most poignant way how important it is for us to work together to make Northern Ireland the better place it can become. I think most of us do actually believe that a true partnership government can make the North a better place."

The SDLP has accused the two largest parties in government during the last Assembly term, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, of carving up power. The larger parties view this as co-operation for the greater good of all and pointed to the unanimous condemnation of last Saturday's car bomb death as a sign of the maturity of the political institutions.

Ms Ritchie accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of creating stalemate in the Executive over issues such as the transfer test for children going to secondary education.

The SDLP launched its campaign for the May poll in Belfast on the promise to unite people and build prosperity.

The leader and South Down candidate said: "We want to see a Northern Ireland that is attractive to business, which takes care of the sick and respects its older citizens and which is a great place to work and to raise a family."

Key points in the party's plan include creating jobs in areas which offer the greatest growth potential; investing in the education and training of young people; delivering better government; and reforming the public sector.

Ms Ritchie added: "We are brimming over with ideas in all of these areas and we intend to debate them in depth and with great confidence in this campaign."

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