Belfast Telegraph

SDLP Youth, Women and LGBT+ heads resign over Fianna Fail link-up

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (centre) speaks to the media in Newry. Photo credit: Michael McHugh/PA Wire
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (centre) speaks to the media in Newry. Photo credit: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

The Chairpersons of the SDLP Youth, Women and LGBT+ branches have resigned from their positions after the party voted to form a partnership with Fianna Fail.

In a statement Matthew Corr (Youth), Caoimhe McNeill (Women) and Matthew Carson (LGBT+) said they decided resigning was the "only course of action" after "procedural abuses" at the party's special conference in Newry on Saturday.

The trio remain party members but Mr Corr said he hoped the SDLP leadership would work to heal the divisions caused by the vote.

Former SDLP Belfast City Councillor Niall Kelly has also resigned from the party after 14 years saying he felt the vote would "inevitably lead to a merger between the two parties".

He said that the "narrow deal which excludes Fine Gael and Labour is a backwards step".

The partnership between the parties passed by 121 votes to 53, with the 53 voting in favour of a wider partnership with Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.

The link-up was opposed by a number of high profile figures within the SDLP, including south Belfast MLA Claire Hanna.

Former party leader Alasdair McDonnell did not attend the special conference, instead spending his Saturday at the launch of Fine Gael Youth in Belfast.

In their statement Mr Carson, Mr Corr and Ms McNeill made a number of complaints and said that they felt the conference was not conducted in the proper way.

The trio claimed that delegate information was not shared beyond the SDLP leadership "preventing any campaigning or persuasion from taking place for those who did not support the leader's position".

They said that the conference was called without the proper notice period being given, and said information on the partnership was still being sent out the day before the vote.

"This is not proper order, this is now how we do things in the SDLP," the statement read.

Despite their feelings the group said they would continue to campaign for SDLP candidates in the upcoming local elections but warned that "party members will not be treated like this without consequence".

In a statement issued after the vote on Saturday the SDLP leadership acknowledged that not everyone would be happy with the outcome.

"This partnership will be built on a genuine desire to deliver for people across Ireland, driven by an ambition to see power returned to local politicians and tasked with changing the lives of people who have for too long been let down by our politics here," the statement said.

"For some members this decision will not have been their desired outcome. The leadership recognise and are sensitive to that fact. We will be reaching out to all strands within our party in the coming weeks and months to ensure we move forward together."

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