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A Short History of the SDLPDec 23, 2011

The SDLP was born out of the civil rights movement in August 1970 when six Stormont MPs and one Senator joined together to form a new political party. Since our foundation, the SDLP has been proudly nationalist and is 100% for a United Ireland, just as we are 100% for the Good Friday Agreement. As members of the Party of European Socialists and Socialists International, we are also solidly internationalist and strongly social democratic in our outlook.

The party's first leader was Gerry Fitt, with John Hume as his Deputy. Following Gerry Fitt’s resignation in 1979, John Hume became Leader and Seamus Mallon, Deputy Leader - positions they held for twenty-one years. In November 2001 Mark Durkan succeed Mr Hume with Brid Rodgers as his deputy. When Brid stood down she was replaced by Dr Alasdair McDonnell in February 2004.

At the Local Government elections of the same year the party returned 101 councillors.

The party currently has 14 MLAs elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Alex Attwood serves on the Executive as the Minister for Social Development.

Throughout the course of the past 40 years, the SDLP has never deviated from its core values. We have always stood completely opposed to all violence, arguing that it was not only morally wrong but politically bankrupt as well because violence always destroys that which it claims to defend. From our earliest days - as illustrated in the 1972 Policy Document "Towards a New Ireland" - we argued for an agreement that addressed the three core sets of relationships; between Nationalists and Unionists in the North, between North and South, and between Britain and Ireland. These relationships are now at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement.

After so much violence and destruction, the Agreement saw other parties sign up to principles the SDLP had consistently advocated. Its endorsement in referendum represented the clear will of the people of Ireland, North and South. While the Agreement's implementation was frustrated for many years, the SDLP held nothing back and wants only to take the Agreement forward. We want to use the Agreements institutions as the tools with which we will generate a stronger economy, grow greater solidarity in our community and build a better society for all. That is our "Better Way to a Better Ireland".