Colum Eastwood: 'Door open' for Mark Durkan SDLP election return

Colum Eastwood
Image caption Colum Eastwood said is predecessor has been missed from frontline politics.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has not ruled out former party leader Mark Durkan standing as an SDLP candidate in future Westminster elections.

Mr Durkan, the former MP for Foyle, announced on Monday he would run in the European election for Fine Gael.

He is standing as a candidate in the Dublin constituency in the May elections.

The current SDLP leader said Mr Durkan "had been missed from frontline politics and missed from Westminster."

"The door is open of course - the only Derry accent we hear in Westminster is (DUP East Londonderry MP) Gregory Campbell's. I don't think anybody in Derry is happy with that," Mr Eastwood told BBC Radio Foyle.

Mr Durkan who has been the MP for Foyle since 2005, lost out by just 169 votes to Elisha McCallion of Sinn Féin in the 2017 Westminster elections.

Londonderry's city seat had been held by the SDLP since their party founder John Hume was elected in 1983.

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Media captionColum Eastwood 'not betrayed' by Mark Durkan move

Mr Eastwood said he was confident the party could regain it in any future elections.

"We don't have to make that decision yet, we hadn't made the decision, and there is no election, when there is we will announce a candidate and I think we will win the seat back."

Mr Eastwood said Mr Durkan informed him of his decision to stand for Fine Gael a few hours before he made it public on Monday afternoon.

Mr Durkan's move comes after the SDLP voted in favour of a partnership with Irish opposition party Fianna Fáil.

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