Election Diary: Heart of SDLP campaign torn apart live on air


The SDLP yesterday saw the key plank of its campaign – a manifesto which it had used to goad its main rival, Sinn Fein – ripped apart during an hour on the Nolan Show.

The party has boasted that the manifesto was the only one to be “fully costed” and taunted Sinn Fein which until yesterday had not released its manifesto.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood’s Foyle colleague Gerard Diver – who has had three months as an MLA – was the party representative on the programme. Although Mr Diver has impressed in the Assembly chamber since taking over from veteran Pat Ramsey, he found himself struggling to explain and defend the financial assumptions which underpin the SDLP manifesto.

Pressed by Mr Nolan, Mr Diver said that just five pledges in the 27-page SDLP manifesto have been “costed”.

By the end of an excruciatingly compelling interview, Mr Diver found himself saying that it was “preposterous” to claim that the entire SDLP manifesto would only cost £217 million to implement.

Unfortunately for the SDLP, last week its Upper Bann candidate and former deputy leader, Dolores Kelly, said: “The SDLP manifesto is costed at £217 million. Which includes a flyover at Lurgan Rail station.”

* An earlier version of this article said that SDLP leader Colum Eastwood had been due to appear on the Nolan Show and had pulled out. An SDLP spokesman today said: “At no point was Colum Eastwood due to appear on the Nolan show. The programme’s organisers were informed that the SDLP spokesperson would be Gerard Diver.”

Tory enlists Clinton

South Antrim Conservative candidate Mark Young has included US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton on his election posters – but hasn’t told her.

The young Tory, who is just back from a stint in America during which he worked on Mrs Clinton’s presidential campaign, has adorned his posters with a photo of the pair of them.

The former Cambridge House Grammar School pupil said that he was intending the posters to be a talking point rather than to suggest that Mrs Clinton was endorsing his campaign.

He told the News Letter: “I haven’t got her endorsement yet,” but said that he sees himself as politically closer to Mrs Clinton’s “centrist” politics than to that of the US Republicans.

Foster: I’m proud of our health record

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that she is proud of the DUP record over five years in charge of the NHS.

Despite serious problems with hospital waiting lists, the First Minister said she was “proud of what the DUP has done in the Department of Health”. saying that the party had invested over £500m more in health, released more than £800 million in efficiency savings and built new state of the art facilities.

However, she added: “But we know we need to do more.”