THE SDLP have officially opened up a Newcastle constituency office at Railway Street in the town.[caption id="attachment_41782" align="alignleft" width="390"] Anne O’Donoghue, wife of the late SDLP stalwart Paddy O’Donoghue, cuts the ribbon to open the Newcastle constituency office.[/caption]
Seán Rogers MLA, who stepped in as MLA after Margaret Ritchie MP stood aside to concentrate on her Westminster constituency, is a well-know figure across South Down having been a headmaster in Kilkeel and a local Newry and Mourne area councillor. He is now embracing his current role as Assemblyman and his new office will add a new focus for the SDLP in the Mournes and South Down area.
Seán Rogers MLA speaking after the launch, said: “I feel privileged to be in a position to open this SDLP Constituency office in Newcastle. Back in 1973 our dear departed colleague Paddy O’Donoghue, who lived just round the corner from here, won an Assembly seat for the fledgling SDLP along with Frank Feely and Eddie McGrady.
“I am particularly delighted to welcome former South Down MP Eddie McGrady here today and I and very grateful to Mrs O’ Donoghue for performing the opening ceremony. We have retained a strong electoral presence in the area, indeed all across South Down ever since this.[caption id="attachment_41777" align="alignright" width="390"] At the offical opening of the SDLP constituency office in Newcastle were South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Party Leader, former South Down MP Eddie McGrady, Seán Rogers MLA, Councillor Marie McCarthy, Down District Council Chairman, and Laura Devlin, Office Manager.[/caption]
“It is in no small way due to the leadership from our MP Eddie McGrady and in recent years Margaret Ritchie supported by MLA’s such as PJ Bradley and Eamonn O’Neill my colleague Karen McKevitt, the team of councillors and the rank and file members from branches. I must at his stage make special mention of Carmel O’Boyle and Eamonn O’Neill who have kept the SDLP flag flying in the Newcastle and Castlewellan area.
“It is somewhat a coincidence that I now hold the Education spokesperson role for the SDLP, the role once held by Paddy O’Donoghue. It is also more than just a coincidence that our respective interests centered on our roles as local Councillors and that outside of politics we were both school teachers and we both held keen interests in the activities and development of the GAA in County Down. I just hope I can ‘harrow the ground ploughed’ by people like Paddy.
“When we opened our doors here in Railway Street a few months ago we quite soon learned that we had made a good decision. The office has been extremely busy and now that today we have officially opened, we do expect the demand on my constituency work to increase. I am a representative of the people, all people, and I welcome all opportunities to assist constituents regardless of their political persuasions.”
Mrs. Anne O’Donoghue, widow of former Newcastle SDLP party stalwart, the late Paddy O’Donoghue, cut the ribbon as part of the official opening of Seán Rogers constituency office in the seaside town. Speaking during the event Mrs O’Donoghue said: “I thank Seán Rogers for involving me in this special day for the SDLP in Newcastle. Ever since the formation of the SDLP back in 1970, the party has retained strong support in Newcastle and adjoining areas. Sean’s new office will bring not only renewed enthusiasm to the party faithful but it will also provide a very welcoming parliamentary constituency service to all residents of the area.”[caption id="attachment_41781" align="alignleft" width="390"] Seán Rogers MLA pictured with Newcastle Constituency Office Manager Laura Devlin at the launch of the new office.[/caption]
Also present at the official opening, Party Leader Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA, said, “I am delighted to see this SDLP office in Newcastle officially opening today and to see so many members, supporters and friends who have come out to officially welcome Seán Rogers and his team to Railway Street. I know the service that they will give to everyone in the local community will be incredibly valuable.”
Speaking at the opening of Sean Roger’s Constituency Office in Newcastle, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said: “50 Years ago on 23 August 1963 many people marched on Washington DC demanding civil rights – that was the birth of the civil rights movement. Fuelled and inspired by that leadership in America and in other European countries, that drive for Civil rights was born in Northern Ireland in 1968 to address issues of electoral, job and housing discrimination – its mantle and campaign of one man and one vote, houses based on need and not creed and fairness in jobs was carried forward and implemented by the SDLP
“That fight for equality and fairness, civil and human rights characterises the SDLP and its representatives. It is one of social justice and service to the communities – borne out in South Down, and not one of self-service.
“That is what constituency service is about – improving the lives, the opportunities, the standards of living and incomes of communities.[caption id="attachment_41783" align="alignright" width="390"] Newcastle SDLP councillors Eamonn O’Neill and Carmel O’Boyle with Laura Devlin, Newcastle Constituency Office Manager.[/caption]
“Today’s official opening of the Newcastle SDLP constituency office is proof of the SDLP’s commitment to the people of South Down. This constituency office is another vehicle by which we, the SDLP, strive to deliver a first class constituency service for all of the people of South Down.
“Sean and his team here in Newcastle will, I have no doubt, continue this legacy of first class constituency service and work with the wider SDLP South Down team as we deliver for South Down.
“Unfortunately however, we are working within a political system that does not have delivery at its core, and the build up to the Hass talks has only served to prove the distasteful truth that the DUP/Sinn Féin alliance in Government is only functioning to serve selfish party political needs. This alliance is not delivering first class, education, health and economic packages for our communities.
“Self-serving sectarian posturing by the DUP and Sinn Fein over recent times has threatened the peace and stability that we in the SDLP all worked hard to achieve, and none more so than the SDLP in South Down. Here in South Down we can take pride in the role we have played in developing community relations that are very positive, and are a direct product of our ethos, that is delivering for all of the people.
“In South Down we face rural school closures, care home closures and an apathy when it comes to the delivery of major economic catalyst projects such as Narrow Water Bridge.
“We have real economic opportunities here in South Down and the SDLP are about working to bring income and prosperity to the community from a combination of our natural resources and our highly educated and skilled population. Tourism, agriculture, fisheries and our public sector economy are the main income generators for our community and we have protected and made progress in all of these sectors as we continue to seek further job and income opportunities. The extension of the Coastal Communities Fund today, a Fund campaigned for by the SDLP at Westminster and now directed by our Minister of the Environment will provide another avenue for the enhancement of our coastal towns and villages.
“This is all proof that the SDLP, unlike the DUP/Sinn Féin alliance, can deliver for the community. We must therefore strengthen our resolve to increase our numbers at that Executive table, and increase our influence in government. Here in South Down we can directly influence that by increasing our share of MLA seats from two to three in the next Assembly election.
“And very soon in May 2014, with the shadow Council elections and the European election, followed by the Westminster election in May2015, we will have the opportunity to increase our share of the vote ahead of the May 2016 Assembly elections.
“This constituency office along with the other SDLP constituency offices throughout South Down are the vehicle by which we will strengthen our electoral position.
“Jane Addams the American Social Reformer and Peace Activist said: ‘The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.’
“The role of this constituency office, in partnership with the other constituency offices and SDLP elected representatives and activists in South Down is to ensure that the ‘good’ that Jane Addams spoke about is secured for all of the community in South Down.”
Seán Rogers MLA
8 Railway Street
Telephone and FAX: 028 437 22443