SDLP launches Assembly election manifesto

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has launched his party's election manifesto, putting health and the issue of Brexit at the top of his list of policies.

“Since last May, I am on record as saying, that the SDLP will not play politics with our health service,” he said.

“In fact I have said that we must take the politics out of health altogether, taking the politics out of health, doesn’t mean though, that we stay silent on the crisis that is currently facing the NHS and its staff.”

Mr Eastwood also explained the SDLP's other key aims including to: secure special status for NI with EU; to compose an emergency health budget; to launch a "Strong Start Fund" - which would give £250 to every child; increase pre-school childcare and to reform Stormont with fewer special advisers.

The SDLP leader also took the opportunity to criticise the parties in the previous Executive and said his party was preparing for government while others were preparing for direct rule.

He added: “If direct rule is a result delivered by Arlene and Michelle, it will take a long time to bring our devolved institutions back. We know from history that bringing them down is the easy part, getting them back up and running is much more difficult. On 2 March, we can have devolution delivered by partnership or direct rule driven by the Tories.”

Colum Eastwood has been leader of the SDLP for just over a year but this is his second election manifesto. He admits the party has had a few bad elections but he believes voters now want change and that the SDLP will benefit next week.