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Ritchie can help renew SDLP as party leader

With the SDLP leadership contest fast approaching in early February delegates will have the opportunity to vote for a new leader.

This should be a leader with a clear vision for the SDLP and its future role in Irish politics, a leader who is not afraid of change and a leader who will have the courage and conviction to lead the SDLP as a party that will help deliver a road map for Irish unity for all the people of Ireland irrespective of religious, political or other opinion. There can be no doubt that the island of Ireland today in 2010 , the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement are the direct result of the SDLP and one of the greatest Irish political statemen, John Hume.

It is now up to the SDLP to renew itself and lead once again as a party that will champion for the civil rights of all, and act as guardians and protectors of the GFA. With an Assembly being run at half speed by the DUP and Sinn Fein, an Assembly that is clearly not delivering on issues such as education, the economy, devolvement on policing and justice and a fully inclusive shared society, the new leader of the SDLP must be a driver of change and a champion for delivering a shared future for all.

Margaret Ritchie I believe has all of the required qualities that is needed to lead the SDLP, and has already proven her self as an dilligent MLA for South Down and Minister for Social Development.

Margaret Ritchie has set out her stall for the leadership of the SDLP and her political vision for the party and how she will help to transform the economy of the North, bring about a shared future for all and delivery on Irish unity. A woman leader can only be good for Irish politics, and the SDLP. But it is up to delegates at the party conference to help start delivering change by voting for Margaret Ritchie.

Patrick Clarke

Dundrum, Co Down