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Social Democratic and Labour Party
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Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP — in Irish Páirtí Sóisialta Daonlathach an Lucht Oibre) is one of the two major nationalist parties in Northern Ireland.

It was founded in the early 1970s to provide a political movement to unite constitutional nationalists who opposed the paramilitary campaign of the Provisional Irish Republican Army and wished to campaign for Catholic civil rights and a united Ireland by peaceful, constitutional means. The SDLP was the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland from the time of its foundation until the beginning of the 21st century when, in the 2001 General Election and the 2003 Assembly Election, the party was for the first time outpolled by Sinn Féin, the political party allied to the Provisional IRA, who also won more seats than the SDLP.

In the 2004 European elections, it lost its long-held European Parliament seat to Sinn Féin.

Critics assert that the SDLP has drifted from its nationalist roots, arguing that it's position on the question of a United Ireland is deeply ambiguous, perhaps in acknowledgement that many Catholics support the United Kingdom but not Unionist parties. Some see the SDLP as first and foremost a party representing Catholic interests, with voters concentrated in rural areas and the professional classes, rather than a vehicle for Irish nationalism.

It has had three leaders;

The SDLP has served in the current power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, alongside the Ulster Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. (The powersharing administration is currently in suspension.)

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