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The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), headquarters in Ormeau Road, Belfast, is nowadays generally thought of as Northern Ireland's second nationalist party behind Sinn Fein. It was once the most popular choice for voters, but has fallen behind their rival since the IRA declared its cease-fire.

Fundamentally more moderate than their Sinn Fein counterparts, the SDLP have always renounced violence as a means of bringing about political change in Ulster: a policy which worked in their favour, electorally speaking, until the present Peace Process and the IRA decommissioning of weapons resulted in Sinn Fein's surge in popularity.

Holding a number of seats in Westminster, the party have become the key - in fact, only - nationalist voice in The Commons, due to the fact that Sinn Fein's MP's have adopted a policy of abstention since their election.

The party have also formed a loose alliance with the UK Labour Party in Westminster, mainly to bolster their support and to help them genuinely oppose the much larger and more successful Democratic Unionist Party.

Originally founded to give anti-paramilitary Republicans a political voice, the SDLP's main aims are to campaign for pro-Catholic issues in the province and, ultimately, a united Ireland but only using peaceful methods.

The present leader, Mark Durkan, was elected in 2001 and has been at pains to point out that the policies the party espouses for Northern Ireland would continue to be implemented in the united Ireland that the SDLP are working towards.




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