Eastwood determined to 'stop Brexit' as he bids to wrest Foyle back for the SDLP
Colum Eastwood is challenging Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion for the Foyle seat in the Westminster election, telling voters his party can "stop Brexit".
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The SDLP leader has replaced Mark Durkan on the ballot paper after the latter lost out in 2017 to Ms McCallion by a narrow margin of 169 votes.
Early predictions suggest the result of the December 12 poll will go to the wire again after Sinn Fein's poor performance in the constituency in the council elections last May.
Unsurprisingly, Brexit, the border and businesses dominated the launch of Mr Eastwood's campaign yesterday.
Describing Brexit as a national emergency, Mr Eastwood said: "Brexit threatens people, businesses and communities across this island, but particularly in Derry where travelling across the border for work, to visit family or to socialise is a basic part of our lives.
"We have spent three years talking about the threats to jobs, livelihoods and border communities. That's time we should have spent expanding our university to give young people the opportunity to study on this island.
"It's time we should have spent upgrading our transport infrastructure to attract high-quality new jobs. It's time we should have spent addressing the legacy of conflict and the mental health crisis.
"We know the scale of the challenge we're facing. The time for talking is now over, now it's time to take control of our own future, stand up for ourselves and vote Boris Johnson's Brexit down."
Ms McCallion ran on an abstentionist ticket as per Sinn Fein policy.
Mr Eastwood said a vote for him would ensure the people of Foyle are heard in the House of Commons again if he wins.
"The people of Derry have been denied representation for the past couple of years, and while I fully respect people who want to be abstentionist, that is their right, but I don't think we can afford that luxury," he said.
"This is a time for leadership. I understand that when the stakes are this high, you have to be prepared to take on the uncomfortable and the unprecedented, and standing outside the door (of Parliament) doing interviews is all well and good, but you should be inside speaking up for the people of this city.
"We need our first team on the pitch. Instead, Derry is on the sidelines.
"This is a defining election... I will not sit idly by as our interests are undermined.
"Brexit can be stopped at Westminster. SDLP MPs will vote to stop Brexit."