CAIN Web Service

1975 Constitutional Convention Election (NI) - Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Manifesto

[Key_Events] [KEY_ISSUES] [Conflict_Background]
POLITICS: [Menu] [Reading] [Articles] [Government] [Political_Initiatives] [Political_Solutions] [Parties] [Elections] [Polls] [Sources] [Peace_Process]

Text: Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn





The purpose of this election is to elect members to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention. The Convention is not a Parliament nor a Legislative Assembly. It is in reality a conference table. Its basic purpose is "to consider what provision for the Government of Northern Ireland is likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the whole community".

In putting forward a strong team of 30 candidates spread across the twelve constituencies the S.D.L.P. is committing itself wholeheartedly to the task of ensuring that the Convention fulfils its objective.



The S.D.L.P. was founded only in 1970 yet it has packed a wealth of experience into its short life. Founded against the most difficult possible background, a background of violence, death and destruction, the S.D.L.P. has built a highly organised political party with members and branches in all parts of Northern Ireland and has provided representation for the people at all levels.

Committed to achievement of change by political means alone it has provided a strong political instrument with which to achieve that change. It has ended a great deal of the splintering and personality divisions which have for so long been a force for instability in Northern Ireland. It has fought elections in all parts of Northern Ireland and has given every elector irrespective of creed or class the opportunity to vote for its policies. It is doing so again in this election.

The S.D.LP. has more than 80 councillors throughout Northern Ireland and has played a major role in establishing a better community spirit through its work in many of the Council areas. It has 19 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, who have shown already by their Constituency work, their full participation in the Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive, their total commitment to and willingness to work for, the benefit of the people of the North. The S.D.L.P. has proved its worth both as a representative team and a well-disciplined body of negotiators. In spite of the difficulties and deep emotions stirred up by the events of the past five years it has held tenaciously and consistently to its point of view that political means alone will resolve the problems of Northern Ireland and to the principles on which a solution must be based.

With this record of hard work, consistency and experience behind it, the S.D.L.P. puts forward a strong united team of 30 candidates in this election. Individual personalities and splinter groups are ineffective at a conference table; a united team, as experience has shown, is the only effective team.


The Northern Ireland problem has its greatest effects on the people of Northern Ireland itself but its implications are wider. Its effects, as history and experience have shown are not confined to Northern Ireland itself. Events in the Republic of Ireland and in Britain have repercussions within Northern Ireland and events in Northern Ireland have repercussions in the Republic and in Britain.

There is an Irish Dimension to the problem. There is a British Dimension to the problem. Any solution must take account of both. The principles on which our solution to the problem is based, take account of both dimensions, as well as the most important Northern Ireland dimension itself and do in fact command the most widespread acceptance among the people of these islands.

In addition, whether examined from a political or an economic aspect, they offer the people of the North the maximum benefit available.


Partnership between our two traditions in Northern Ireland and between both parts of Ireland has long been the cornerstone of the S.D.L.P. approach to a solution. Power-sharing in government and the institutionalised recognition of the Irish Dimension are the tangible expressions of partnership. We regard these as the first essential steps in ensuring that we have a system of government to which all the people of Northern Ireland will give their loyalty. Eventually, working together, developing trust, confidence and understanding between two traditions, a much more normal political society will evolve, based on normal political divisions.

If we are to solve our problems peacefully then we must recognise the reality of life as it is and not as we would like it to be. The reality is that there is a deep division between our two traditions which has left us with the peculiar political situation that is here today. The past approach of each tradition, based on pursuit of victory for its point of view, has always resulted in conflict, death and destruction and in a deepening of bitterness and division. If we are ever to break out of the vicious cycle we need a new approach; not one which has ulterior ultimate objectives but one which, while respecting and recognising the aspirations and culture of each tradition, allows for the freely agreed evolution of both institutions and attitudes which in the end will produce the normal political society that we all want to see.

In our view only the path of partnership will lead to it. The prejudices, the bitterness, the hatred and fears can only be eradicated by both traditions working together and demonstrating their joint concern for all of the people. In time this will produce an evolution towards new attitudes, expressed in new institutions and in a new stability - all evolved in agreement and trust.

But we must begin at the beginning and the beginning is today. Today we are divided and distrustful. The only way forward therefore is to accept these differences and go forward on the basis of a fully agreed partnership which accepts the traditions and attitudes of people as they are and without seeking to coerce them. Such a partnership, based initially on differences, an in time evolve to a more natural political situation. But it will be one that will have been built by the hard work, co-operation and agreement of all. Trust will replace distrust and new horizons will emerge, made possible by the energy and applications of all our people working in harness. It is no easy task but the challenge is there and we in the S.D.L.P. stand ready to face it.

A political system - a system of government - is created so that people can live together in harmony and peace. The best security that can be provided for the people of Northern Ireland is through a system of government that commands the loyalty of all and that all will defend. The police service of such a system will have the full support and respect of all. The creation of math a system is the objective of the Convention. It is the objective that the S.D.L.P. will strive for And we will not have the slightest hesitation in pledging our full support and loyalty to the police service of a fully agreed system of government.

The achievement of an agreed system of government is the surest way to end the symptoms of our sickness which has caused the greatest suffering - violence, murder, internment, injustice.


Partnership institutions can bring great economic benefits to the people of Northern Ireland. The basic necessity to allow any community to tackle its problems effectively has always been missing in Northern Ireland - a stable system of government. The lack of it and the efforts to secure one have obscured and drawn attention away from the serious problems that continue to affect all our people - unemployment, emigration, housing, agriculture, etc. Their continued existence only emphasises the urgency of the task of the Convention.

From an economic viewpoint, as well as a political one, power-sharing and an Irish Dimensions offer the best framework in which we can effectively tackle these problems.

It is also generally accepted that Northern Ireland will be much better off economically if its affairs are administered by the people of Northern Ireland themselves. The existence of a local assembly and administration are clearly far superior from an economic point of than Direct Rule from elsewhere. This is even more evident and essential if we remain within the E.E.C. What is required is that such an assembly and administration have the whole. hearted support and loyalty of both sections of the Northern Ireland community. This is best achieved in our view by ensuring that both sections share in the administration of Northern Ireland at government level. In this way the talents of all our people can be used for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole and our energies can be used constructively and in partnership instead of destructively and in conflict.

Apart from being the expression of the aspirations and traditions of a large section of the community there are also clear economic advantages to be gained from the Irish Dimension by the people of Northern Ireland. This is even more true if examined in the context of Europe as a whole. It is clearly to our advantage to have a joint approach to specific problems such as the planning of border areas, the development and study of our energy needs and resources, our transport system both internal and external, our tourist industry and our agricultural industry.

Similarly with the British Dimension. That the rights, aspirations and traditions that it expresses must be respected goes without saying. There are also clear economic advantages in present circumstances to the people of Northern Ireland deriving from the British Dimension, advantages that are obvious and do not need elaboration.

From an economic viewpoint therefore it is clear that the way forward that will ensure, not only political stability but the best economic benefits available to us is based on four clear principles.

1. A powerful and representative Northern Ireland Assembly.

2. An administration on which both sections of the community participate to the full.

3. The recognition and acceptance of the Irish Dimension.

4. The recognition and acceptance of the British Dimension.


It is clear that the approach and policies of the S.D.L.P. is a challenge to all to break the shackles of the past. If we are to succeed, no shibboleth, no traditional attitude, no handed. down political dogma must be left unchallenged or unexamined. Most of them have failed us in the past and will fail us again.

We in the S.D.L.P. are prepared to meet the challenge and given the proper leadership we believe that the people of Northern Ireland are ready too.



The above manifesto was written for the:
Constitutional Convention Election (NI) on Thursday 1 May 1975.
This version of the manifesto appeared in Appendix 1 of:
Great Britain. Northern Ireland Office (NIO). (1975) Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report, (20 November 1975). London: HMSO.


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :