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Revitalised SDLP goes headhunting at Westminster to recruit new aides

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his deputy Nichola Mallon

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his deputy Nichola Mallon

Freddie Parkinson

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his deputy Nichola Mallon

The chief of staff for Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford is heading to Stormont as a special adviser.

High-flying Tanya McCamphill is to become the new Spad for SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

The young Derry woman was previously the SDLP's head of campaigns before returning to London to work for the SNP.

Westminster sources said that she was "very highly respected" and would be greatly missed by the SNP at Westminster.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is also hiring another employee with extensive Westminster experience.

Ruaidhri O Donnell, who is currently political adviser to Labour shadow secretary of state Tony Lloyd, is to become Mr Eastwood's senior parliamentary adviser.

The 26-year-old Derry man will move over from Labour Party staff to the SDLP next month.

The two high-profile recruitments point to the revitalisation of the SDLP following its record-breaking votes in Foyle and South Belfast in last month's Westminster election.

A fortnight ago the party announced that former Downing Street adviser Matthew O'Toole was replacing Claire Hanna as South Belfast MLA.

Mr O'Toole, who is from Downpatrick, had worked for the communications' agency Powerscourt, as well as for the Treasury.

Ms McCamphill had quit as SDLP head of campaigns in 2018, less than a year after taking up the job.

The loss of its three MPs in June 2017 had placed the party under increasing financial pressure.

Belfast Telegraph