N. Ireland Politics

Alasdair McDonnell addresses SDLP conference in Armagh

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Media captionBBC Newsline's Political Editor Mark Devenport reports from the SDLP party conference.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell has told his party conference in Armagh people feel let down by the DUP and Sinn Féin.

He told delegates the DUP and Sinn Féin "are the parties of disappointment, false promise, poor government, bad politics and no results".

"They have had their chance and they have failed the test," Dr McDonnell said.

He said SDLP ministers, MLAs and MPs had challenged and faced down the "bad politics" of the DUP and Sinn Féin.

"Politics have to deliver results for everybody, particularly ordinary hard-working families," Dr McDonnell said.

"I believe that our SDLP core values are central to rebuilding faith in politics, and trust in politicians and delivering worthwhile benefits.

"Those core values are: Reconciliation, social justice and prosperity.

"The many broken promises in the programme for government show the disappointing failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin, including the failure to get to grips with a shared future, collusion issues, real power sharing and integration."

'Riots and mayhem'

The SDLP leader said for much of the past year "riots and mayhem" had dominated the headlines in Northern Ireland.

"Hundreds of courageous PSNI officers; holding the line, have been injured, the police have been stretched to breaking point and the economy of Belfast has been severely damaged," he said.

"Last December, Belfast City Council arrived at a sensible compromise, to fly the union flag on designated days, a decision that was supported by the SDLP.

"It is unfortunate that unionists cannot do compromise."

'Mini Marshall Plan'

He said the party believed Northern Ireland needed a formal prosperity process, pursued with the same ambition and determination as the peace process.

"Indeed 15 years ago many of us expected a prosperity process; a mini Marshall Plan; to be constructed to underpin the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"There were promises - hopes were raised; and hopes were dashed."

Dr McDonnell concluded his speech by saying that he had a dream for the future of Ireland.

"I have a dream of a new and much better Ireland where our vision and all our hopes and ambitions for peace, reconciliation, social justice and economic prosperity are finally realised; a new Ireland taking her place proudly in a brave new world at the heart of Europe and where we are at peace with ourselves and with Britain," he said.

"We in the SDLP are determined to ensure that we empower you to realise your dreams, hopes and ambitions both for yourselves and for your families."

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