SDLP's Eastwood in plea for parties to 'take poison out of politics' and to tackle issues
Colum Eastwood has said it is down to local representatives to "take the poison out of politics".
The SDLP leader and Foyle MLA was speaking yesterday at the launch of his party's manifesto for next week's local government elections.
Some 85 party candidates are standing for election to the 11 councils on May 2.
Mr Eastwood said people faced a very clear choice when they go to the polls to choose their council members.
"People can continue supporting failed politics, or they can vote for people who will go to work," he said.
"They can vote for people who want a government; they can vote for people who want to tackle the crisis in our health service, in our education system; they can vote for people who are prepared to stand up and do something to protect their communities against Brexit.
"That's what the SDLP offer. That's what we've always offered, and that's the clear choice for this election.
"It is a manifesto full of ideas, a manifesto that is intent on getting people back to work. It is a manifesto that recognises the real challenges we have across our communities and across our economy."
He was joined by deputy leader Nichola Mallon, who brought along her two-month-old son Emmett, and by many of the candidates.
It is understood that Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will travel to Belfast next week to campaign for SDLP local election candidates, following the recent cross-border partnership between the two parties
Cara Hunter, a candidate for the Derg area, told the launch: "Over the last couple of months we have knocked doors, posted endless leaflets, had difficult conversations with households who are fed up with politics being in perpetual turmoil.
"We do it because we believe our message of partnership and true delivery must be heard.
"This message is woven throughout policy ideas that offer an ambitious platform for change."
Mr Eastwood said the party's manifesto was "littered with ideas" to tackle the crises facing us, from healthcare, through education, to housing, economic development planning and social services, as well as the challenges of Brexit.
But, most of all, he said: "We need to take the poison out of politics.
"As elected politicians, we have a responsibility to bring people back together again."
Turning to broader political developments, and initiatives for talks to try to restore power-sharing at Stormont, Mr Eastwood insisted: "If talks fail to produce an agreement then both governments must impose a deal."
The key manifesto priorities for SDLP
Expand enterprise zones, reduce VAT on tourism
Establish a Brexit committee on every council
Tackle Hate Crime
Support the Childcare for All Charter
Dedicated housing planning officers in each council area
A moratorium on strip mining and precious metal mining