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Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
SDLP debates party overhaul
SDLP leader John Hume
SDLP hopes to attract young blood and young voters
The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party is holding a private conference in Belfast on Saturday to debate an overhaul of party structures.

The move follows a review of the party's organisation earlier this year which concluded that the SDLP must change its image to try to win back votes in the nationalist community.

Around 250 delegates from across Northern Ireland are expected to attend the Special Constitutional Conference.

The commissioned report said that the SDLP was in danger of losing too much ground to its main rival Sinn Fein.

It also called for a broadening of the party's electoral base, targeting young and non-Catholic voters and for measures including updating the party logo.

SDLP leader John Hume will deliver a keynote speech at the conference.

Like all of the other parties, the SDLP is facing the extra demands resulting from the resumption of Northern Ireland devolution earlier this month.

With the possibility of a general election next year, all of the political groupings are preparing for the campaign.

The SDLP, instrumental in paving the way for republicans to join the peace process, was sidelined while the impasse between Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists over guns and sharing power dominated the process.

However, the party's deputy leader Seamus Mallon has resumed his role as deputy first minister in the assembly.

The SDLP also holds three other ministerial posts on the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mark Durkan holds the finance portfolio, Brid Rodgers is the minister for agriculture while Sean Farren is higher and further education minister.

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See also:

27 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
SDLP drive to 'renew' party
26 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Hume's freedom of Derry condemned
24 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Party strategy as peace process falters
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