Friday, 26 February 2010

SDLP Stalwart Steps Down

Eddie McGrady has been the the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) MP for South Down since I was one of those new voters on the register with my date of birth beside me but unable to vote in the 1987 election. In that election he succeeded Enoch Powell who had moved to Northern Ireland politics after his time as the Conservative Member for Wolverhampton South West came to an end at the first 1974 election.

At the age of 74 I do not begrudge him taking his leave of Westminster at the next election. He has also been a Councillor since 1961. Rumours are that he is stepping aside so his party leader, member for the same seat in the Assembly Margaret Ritchie, who had served a time as his constituency aide, can take up his seat. In his own words she is part of the 'new dynamic' of the party he helped found in 1970, serving as the first SDLP Chairperson from 1971 to 73.

Although he is not endorsing any candidates for his succession Eddie has said:

"[The local party] have been very astute in selecting me over the years,so why should they not continue that wisdom?"

He has also served as the party's chief whip in Westminster since 1988, was elected to the 1984 Forum and served as an MLA between 1998 and 2003.

In recent elections the SDLP share of the seats has shrunk and after the last election they were jokingly dubbed the South Down and Londonderry Party and two of their three Eddie plus Mark Durkan for Foyle represented area that could almost fit the abbreviation of the party. Only Alasdair McDonnell in Belfast South prevented the Westminster party truly becoming the SDLP on geographical grounds.

As one of the members and leader of the first Northern Irish party to publicly speak out for the principle of consent over the governance of the Northern Irish people Eddie will be greatly missed as he heads into a well earned retirement.

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