| Our History

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. We have always fought for a policing service that is representative and accountable. Since joining the Policing Board and District Policing Partnerships, we have driven forward the Patten agenda and more change has been delivered in policing in recent years than in the previous eighty.

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 institutions of the Agreement 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."

1972

Towards a New Ireland (1st SDLP Policy Document)

Any proposals…which will provide permanent peace, and stability so that the people of Ireland of all traditions, can come together on a basis of harmony and justice, ending for all time the unjust domination of any one Irish tradition over another.

1977

Facing Reality (SDLP Policy Document)

It is clear for all to see that the fundamental basis of past British policy has been, to say the least, singularly unsuccessful. Attempts to solve the problem in a purely British context have failed and will continue to fail.

1979

"The Irish Question: A British Problem" article by John Hume for Foreign Affairs Journal

The time has come for a positive and decisive initiative. It must be taken by both London and Dublin acting together.

1981

SDLP Leader John Hume's Address to Party Conference

The Anglo-Irish political initiative, originally an SDLP concept as the Taoiseach said in the Dáil on Thursday, has been formally launched by the Irish and British Governments…Our long-standing policy on the way to promote agreement has at last been accepted by a British government.

1985

SDLP Leader John Hume's Address to Party Conference

For the SDLP 'victory' is 'out'. 'Peace', 'stability', 'agreement', 'consensus' and 'partnership' are all 'in'.

1993

SDLP Leader John Hume’s Address to Party Conference

It is people who have rights, not territory, not land. Our people, unfortunately, are divided and cannot be brought together by any form of coercion, only by agreement.

1998

John Hume at the signing of the Good Friday Agreement

Only on the basis of equality, fairness and respect for our differences could we begin to heal the deep divisions between our people. This historic agreement enables us, at last, to start the healing process.

2007

Mark Durkan MP MLA SDLP Leader Conference Speech

One of the underestimated truths in politics is that change changes things..The possibilities are too precious and the prospects too important for anyone to make decisions now that are forced or false.

2010

Margaret Ritchie Party Conference 2010

The work of the SDLP is a noble calling. We bring unique values to Irish politics. We must never forget that.

2011

Alasdair McDonnell Party Conference 2011

It took the SDLP 30 years to achieve our primary aim of an Agreed Ireland, to stop the killing and stop the constitutional stalemate and its sectarian underpinning from poisoning the whole political atmosphere. That was a long and painful journey, often appearing to have no end. But it did achieve an Agreed Ireland.

2012

Alasdair McDonnell West Tyrone Constituency event

The SDLP has always been different. Most of the political parties on the island of Ireland had their origins in one or other side of the conflict which led to the partition of this country. We, on the other hand, were formed with the purpose of ending that conflict for ever.

2013

Alasdair McDonnell speech on the Haass negotiations

There would be no Assembly or Executive today without the Good Friday Agreement, John Hume and the SDLP. The Executive Parties, on behalf of all of the people are morally obliged to use their collective talent and imagination to put flesh on those principles in relation to the outstanding issues to be addressed in the Haass negotiations. We can turn back, create a vacuum, and encourage extremism and all its evils or we can move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect.

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