Dungannon, County Tyrone…launch of SDLP Maifesto.
Interesting that over recent months, SDLP has been “on the road”. The launch of the new SDLP Spokesperson Team took place in An Cultúrlann in West Belfast, the Party Conference in Derry, the Campaign Launch in an arts centre in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter…and now the Manifesto in Dungannon.
The great advantage of having a SDLP event in Dungannon is that David McCann and Alan Meban wont be there to report for Slugger O’Toole. Taking Politics away from the “metro-textual” bubble of South Belfast and into real places is a verygood idea.
The cumulative effect of set-pieces is important. Not only does it maximise the publicity, it allows Party members to engage with the Leadership and each other. It creates and maintains a vibe and the conversations around a cup of tea or coffee are as important as the speeches.
Each set-piece gives Colum Eastwood a chance to deliver an address to Party faithful. And each speech seems fine-tuned and carefully crafted. And importantly it is all ahead of Leaders Debates. Colum has clearly prepared well…these events…addressing SDLP branches and being visible in sixth form debates in schools and in local walkabouts in Lurgan, Cookstown, LIsburn etc.
It breeds a sense of confidence within SDLP …as do the reports from canvas, optimistic reports in part due to more people knocking on doors than in the recent past.
Of course, Dungannon has Civil Rights connexions going back to the first march from Coalisland to Dungannon in 1968. And on a personal note, I lived there from 1978 to 1982 and I remember that this location for a SDLP event was once heavily militarised. The change in 2016 is amazing…a reminder of how far we have come.
The substance of Colum’s speech was that DUP and Sinn Féin are merely satisfied that Stormont exists but we have the right to expect more. The theme of Fairness was emphasised. West Belfast gets just 1% of the Investment “Budget”. And 101,000 children are brought up in poverty. OVer 50% of families have no Savings.
Forced emigration is about more than Economics…communities lose out when they are deprived of the energy of young people. There are too many parents making trips to airports.
The plan to invest £250 for each child born…a figure to be topped up at least once before the child leaves full time education seems like a good one.
The point that SF have never taken up an economic ministry…and have “re-partioned the north economically and had their eye wiped by DUP” will go well in the Leaders Debate.
Working tpwards a United Ireland rather than lip service…a broad based commossion to look into it. A Dublin based Ministry for the North?
SDLP will not be entering Government unless there is a committment to Fairness. The broad hint that SDLP is considering Opposition as much as Government might play well with disenchanted voters who are fed up with the current Stormont set-up…it will be interesting how that plays out.
All in all…another good day out.