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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 14:54 GMT
Social, Democratic and Labour Party

The Social Democratic and Labour Party is the biggest nationalist party in Northern Ireland and one of the most fervent supporters of the Good Friday Agreement.

It draws its support from Catholics and nationalists.

It is wholly opposed to the belief among some in Northern Ireland that political violence can be justified to attain goals.

While it supports the principle of a united Ireland, it stresses that this cannot come about without the consent of the people.

Pivotal figure

Party leader John Hume
John Hume: Pivotal figure in party
The SDLP campaigned strongly for a "yes" vote in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement.

Leader and MP John Hume has been a pivotal figure in the peace process and persuading both republicans to take part and the British government to negotiate with the party.

Last year an internal review in the party suggested it was losing voters to Sinn Fein because of a "tired and middle-class" image.

Since then it has tried to modernise itself to attract more young and non-Catholic voters.

Deputy leader Seamus Mallon admitted then: "Some of us are almost getting past the sell-by date."

'Running scared'

In February however the party rejected offers of an election pact with Sinn Fein.


Some of us are almost getting past the sell-by date

Seamus Mallon
This kind of pact would hinge on only one of the two parties running in certain constituencies assuming nationalists would vote for that candidate.

SDLP chairman Alex Attwood rejected the deal, accusing Sinn Fein of running scared of an election battle.

The SDLP currently holds three of Northern Ireland's 18 Westminster seats.

Seamus Mallon, SDLP Deputy leader
Seamus Mallon: Deputy first minister at Stormont

In 1998 it won 24 seats in the assembly elections with 22% of the vote.

Four of its members have ministerial jobs on the executive.

This includes Seamus Mallon's post as deputy first minister.

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

Links with Labour

The SDLP was formed in 1970 mainly from members of the Nationalist Party, the National Democratic Party and Republican Labour.

Mr Hume replaced Gerry Fitt as leader in 1979 when he resigned, complaining the party was becoming less socialist.

The SDLP made history in 1997 when one of its councillors, Alban Maginness, became the first nationalist to be appointed Lord Mayor of Belfast.

He is fighting for the four-way marginal Westminster seat in north Belfast.

The party has historically had close links with Britain's Labour Party.

It has called for greater financial powers for the assembly and more cross-border initiatives in tourism, agriculture and industry.

It takes a strong pro-Europe line and favours entry to the single currency.

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