Politics Made Simple part 3 (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election): What Is The SDLP?

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (or as they will be referred to in this opening paragraph, “The Simply and Desperately trying to Live Party”) are currently the third biggest party in the NI Executive, although that could all change by May the 5th. They were founded in the 1970s, and they were one of the two main parties in 1998 when the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement (whatever you want to call it), was signed (you know that thing which everyone born that year in Northern Ireland is only remembered for). Although the agreement has some good parts, it also had some bad parts, that might have proven to have been the cause of the car crash elections that have taken place since 2005/07 onwards, between the SDLP and their once marriage partner (yes, I mean the UUP).

But what are their main political beliefs, and what is it that differentiates between them and the second biggest party, Sinn Fein? In this episode, I’m going to be going through all their beliefs, so you know what you’ll be voting for on the 5th of May.

So as mentioned, the SDLP was founded as a nonsectarian political movement in the 1970s, and its first leader was Gerry Fitt, though it is John Hume who has been known as one of its more recognisable leaders, thanks to his greatest political achievement which was the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which he also got a Nobel Peace Prize for. Having joined the Northern Ireland civil rights movement in the late ’60s, Hume saw nationalism as a declining force in the new Europe, and thought Northern Ireland needed extended self-government, with powers reasonably divided between the population groups.

Though not one of the largest parties, the SDLP of today is led by Colum Eastwood, and as were the stepping stones of the party in its early days, their sole political aim is a United Ireland, though they want to achieve it by peaceful means.

They supported the UK adopting the euro during the Single Currency debate, and also supported Remain in the 2016 Brexit Referendum.

Some of their other stances on issues are that they support legislation involving the Irish Language Act, they support abortion in certain circumstances, and they also support Gay Marriage.

But they caused controversy last year when a bill dodged all mentions of girls and women, and pointed instead at “persons who have periods”.

They are supportive of the NHS, and are believed to have a plan for what they would like to keep in a United Ireland.

So to summarise what the SDLP is:

  • They are an Irish Nationalist party, who’s sole political aim is a United Ireland, but in a way that is brought around simply.
  • They are Pro-EU, Pro-Irish Language, Pro LGBT+ and Pro abortion in certain circumstances
  • They are Pro NHS
  • They were in support of the UK adopting the Euro
  • They have caused controversy recently over so called inclusionary language




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