Kelly: SDLP should leave executive

Posted By: November 16, 2014

Irish News. (Belfast). Saturday, November 15, 2014

SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly has called again for the party to leave the executive. 
Despite her party leader’s view that it should remain in government, the Upper Bann MLA said calls from party activists and supporters for the SDLP to move into opposition were becoming “stronger and stronger”. 
Mrs Kelly was speaking last night at the SDLP’s annual conference in Belfast’s Ramada Hotel. 
Leader Alasdair McDonnell will address the conference today. 
In her address to delegates, the deputy leader repeated the call she first made in 2012 for the SDLP to leave the power-sharing executive. 
Former party leader Margaret Ritchie suggested a similar move at last year’s conference. 
However, in an interview with The Irish News, Dr McDonnell said the SDLP was determined to remain in the government, at least until formal structures made opposition a more viable option. 
“We can best serve the public by holding the executive to account from within,” he said. 
“We’ll keep it under review and I am persuadable but the SDLP does its job better by being in there.” 
At this weekend’s conference, the leader is likely to hear further calls to take the party out of the executive. 
Mrs Kelly said the party’s strategic aim was to be in government but that as a short-term tactic, moving into opposition should be considered. 
“Opposition is simply a tactical question. And because it’s tactics we can relax about having different views on it,” she said. 
“It would be different if there were divergent views on party goals or vision but not on tactics. So media attempts to portray ‘opposition’ as a big policy fault-line in the SDLP are simply wrong. 
“Opposition does not translate, as some would have it, as a return to unionist majority rule. 
“So the question is, would we be better off spending some of the next 18 months, before the next assembly election, setting out our stall in opposition? Would we further expose the malign two-party regime if we detached ourselves from it? 
“And would we be able to better present our alternative offering to the electorate if we went into opposition? 
“I believe we would. I am getting that message stronger and stronger from activists in the party and supporters on the doorsteps. But the party will decide and we will move on together.”