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The Decline of the SDLP and their European Election Brexit Headache

12 3 0
22.04.2019

Once heralded around the world as the vanguard movement for peace and civil equality in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic & Labour party now finds itself eclipsed by its rival Sinn Féin and verging on the point of political extinction. By their own admission, in the years since the culmination of their flagship achievement, the Good Friday Agreement, the SDLP has lost its ‘message’ and its electoral performance in Northern Ireland’s nationalist community has declined sharply from 70% in the 1990s to well under 30% today. Since the retirement of party founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume in 2001, the party has gone through no less than six leaders and lost its entire representation in both the European and British parliaments. In the years since Hume’s departure, they have struggled to find a role in a post-civil rights, post-peace process era of Northern Irish politics and have had their share of seats in the Stormont Assembly drop from twenty-four in 1998 to just twelve in 2017.

Another contemporary account of the SDLP decline tends to focus on the party losing its place as the voice of the nationalist community due to the anomalous rise of Sinn Féin in the post-Good Friday Agreement era. The legitimization of Sinn Féin and their ability to become an effective electoral force does........

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