SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP, speaking ahead of the year anniversary of the restoration of institutions at Stormont, said that too often the Joint First Ministers have failed the test of leadership after a year of crisis.
In a stark warning, the SDLP Leader said the SDLP mandate is for “delivery” and that his party would not “cover the cracks” in the “dysfunctional and divisive relationship” between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Mr Eastwood said:
“The last year has been plagued with crisis and challenge. With the coronavirus pandemic impacting every aspect of life and Brexit adding uncertainty into an already strained period, there is no denying that these difficulties are a challenge for every and any government.
In a pandemic, it is literally a matter of life and death that government works and works effectively.The unprecedented events of the last year called for a new approach to devolved government here.
However, a year after we stood together in support of New Decade, New Approach, we have to be honest, there has been no new approach from the DUP and Sinn Fein. Far too often they still choose an approach to government that creates chaos from crisis and conflict from challenge. That approach doesn't serve the interests of good government and it definitely doesn't serve the interests of our people.
The true test of leadership is how you handle crisis and too often our Joint First Ministers have failed that test. There can be no excuses for the delays, the confusion, the lack of leadership and the inadequate, inconsistent public messaging over the last year."
“The SDLP continues to play our role in the Executive, with our own Minister working tirelessly with a singular focus on delivery for people. But we must be honest with the public, at the moment we are one seat at the table. The dysfunction that engulfs the Executive will only ever be solved if the Joint First Ministers use their powers to fix it. For our part, the SDLP will always work with willing partners to deliver for our citizens but we will not cover the cracks in the dysfunctional and divisive relationship that come to define the Executive Office.
After over 10 failed years at the top of government together, it’s time for the DUP and Sinn Fein to accept they must take a very different approach. An approach focused on delivery, not division and dysfunction."