By Cillian Sherlock, PA
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has “ruled out” a merger with the Labour Party.
“We’re not doing mergers with anybody, the SDLP is standing on its own two feet,” he said.
It has been reported that Labour leader Ivana Bacik said she was in “extensive discussions” on collaboration with the SDLP.
At her party conference in Cork on Saturday, Ms Bacik said: “Working with our sister party, the SDLP, we want to deliver on our shared ambition to achieve a social democratic vision, across 32 counties.
“That’s why we support calls for a unity referendum.”
Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics, Mr Eastwood said the SDLP had a “very good relationship” with the Labour party but when it came to a merger he had “ruled it out”.
Mr Eastwood said the party was “not too bothered about having friends” but said he wanted to build a “coalition for change”.
“We want to talk to every single community across this island about the kind of country that we can build,” he said.
“We can build that consensus. We can build that coalition for change, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he added.
Last year, it was reported that the SDLP had ended its partnership with Fianna Fail.
Asked about seats lost during the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election, Mr Eastwood said it had been “difficult”.
He said the result was a reflection of DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson telling nationalists they can not be first minister and that it was “understandable” that SDLP voters had then voted for Sinn Fein.
“It’s a very difficult political context for us, but it’s temporary,” he said.
“I don’t really care what anybody says about what election happened last year or anything else.
“We’re determined to move forward,” Mr Eastwood said.
“We’re still here, we’re not going anywhere.
“We’re absolutely determined to look to the future and fight for every single vote,” he added.
At the SDLP conference on Saturday, he said the party outlined long-term vision for “coming back”.
“It’s not about the SDLP and who well we do, it’s about the kind of country that we want to build,” he said.
He said Northern Ireland “had not been fixed” since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
“We have a massive opportunity now to fix it but of course, we’ve the DUP holding everybody back because they won’t even allow us to go back into government,” he said.
Mr Eastwood said he is “absolutely determined” to continue as leader of the SDLP.