Armagh City Hotel last night. SDLP members and friends gathered to formally launch the election campaign in Newry & Armagh.
Among the speakers, Deputy Leader, Fearghal McKinney, who introduced Justin McNulty and Karen McKevitt.
The two candidate strategy is designed to bring in two MLAs.The constituency has been divided for canvassing purposes with Justin being allocated Armagh area and Karen being allocated the area around Newry and South Armagh.
Justin McNulty is a member of a SDLP “family” and was a member of the Armagh team which won the All-Ireland in 2002. So there is a name recognition factor and he was the Party’s candidate in last years Westminster Election. Some quotes from his speech….”we will not perpetuate Fear”, “our voters are out there waiting for us” and “this constituency has had two successive Roads Ministers and we have the worst roads”.
Karen McKevitt is outgoing MLA for South Down. Her speech referenced victims of the Troubles, including the murders of the Reavey brothers (committed by loyalists), the Kingsmill Massacre (committed by republicans) and the more recent brutal murder of Paul Quinn.
The overall mood was one of genuine affection for the candidates and outgoing MLA, Dominic Bradley who has been a major advocate for the Irish language and for Autism. Dominic is the Campaign Manager and a lot of his speech was about the logistics of the campaign.
Can two seats be won? Well, certainly people I talked to detect a change in the conversations they are having on doorsteps. But as always, a major factor will be the turnout on 5th May.