Northern Ireland

SDLP 'want to demonstrate politics work'

Colum Eastwood
Image caption Colum Eastwood launched the SDLP's local government election manifesto in Londonderry

The SDLP leader has urged politicians to show those who murdered journalist Lyra McKee that "politics does work".

Colum Eastwood also warned that if the next round of political talks fail to produce an agreement then both governments must "impose a deal".

He said the process planned for next month needs to be short and any move to introduce "flexible" deadlines must be resisted by all the parties.

Mr Eastwood was launching the SDLP's local government election manifesto.

"Twenty-one years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and we have now lost our way," he said.

"It isn't good enough for politicians to come and stand together and just condemn things, the public out there will never forgive us."

Strong statements, he said, need to be followed by "real action".

'Take poison out of politics'

Mr Eastwood also criticised the "rhetoric" from some parties, which he said was sending out a mixed message.

"If we have learned anything from this past week, you can't one day say you have no confidence in police and the next day condemn those shooting at police officers, " he said.

Image caption The SDLP is standing 85 candidates in the local government election

He added "we have a responsibility as elected politicians to take the poison out of politics".

The SDLP is fielding 85 candidates across the 11 council constituencies.

It currently holds 58 seats after eight former councillors quit the party - some of whom are standing as independent candidates in next week's election.

The party is calling for enhanced powers for local councils to fill the "power vacuum".

They include plans for each council to have a Brexit committee to deal with the fallout from the UK leaving the EU.

The SDLP also wants local authorities to have greater control when it comes to dealing with housing list pressures, climate change challenges and regenerations power to spearheads jobs and investment.

The party is also calling for more provisions to deal with loneliness and mental health challenges in council areas.