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Alex Kane

Why mainstream unionism is unlikely to engage with SDLP’s unity commission

Alex Kane


Whatever way Colum Eastwood portrays the initiative, its end goal is same as his Sinn Fein rivals — a united Ireland, writes Alex Kane

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

The SDLP’s launch of a New Ireland Commission didn’t really come as much of a surprise. With Sinn Fein not in the new Government in the Republic, and with the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael/Green coalition taking what looked like a fairly relaxed position on Irish unity, opting for long-term discussion rather than anything resembling a specific plan, an opportunity opened for the SDLP to try and take the lead in Northern Ireland and outflank Sinn Fein along the way.

Colum Eastwood says the primary aim of the commission is to produce a “very substantial document that covers all the bases”, although he would not be drawn on when he expects completion of the project. He said: “The only path to uniting the people of this island is through the spirit of partnership, cooperation and reconciliation that the Good Friday Agreement is built on.

“Delivering a new Ireland demands that we all spill our sweat to forge new enduring relationships between the people of this island and that we demonstrate to everyone that there is an equal place for them.”