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We are living in perhaps some of the most severe economic times
that we've seen for many years.
Boom followed by bust.
The first visible signs were in the construction sector.
The cranes came down, tens of thousands lost their jobs.
When the wages aren't there, the money can't be spent,
and slowly we have seen the symptoms spread to the high street.
Shops closed as household bills came under severe strain.
Small business, the backbone of commercial life here,
has been broken.
It's not over and it won't be for some time.
The big budget cuts have yet to come.
In these circumstances you would be right to ask for an action plan
from your politicians.
A recognition that times have changed.
A demonstration that politicians will roll up their sleeves
and fight for your future.
But, if you have to ask for such an action plan, it's not there.
The SDLP believes it has answers
and they don't lie in the area of mutual deadlock.
It was SDLP solutions that helped to resolve
issues around 40 years of conflict here.
The party also has ideas which can help us now,
in the midst of terrible economic gloom.
Firstly, we believe that major efforts should be made
to support our people, who are feeling the brunt
of a financial crisis not of their making.
We have proposals to do this. We want to help and we can help.
Our MLAs will fight those cuts that threaten front-line services
and our MPs will take the fight to Westminster,
to challenge painful reforms to the welfare system
at a time when vulnerable people need it most.
Secondly, we believe that we have answers that will tackle directly
the fallout from this economic crisis,
answers that will maximise the money government spends.
We have already outlined
where billions could be found from the block grant.
We will put pressure on the parties at Stormont
to reconfigure the budget and programme for government,
so that politics is delivering value for money for our people
and finances are targeted where they are needed most.
We have identified and want to prioritise those areas
where we know there are seeds of recovery,
areas where we can begin to thrive
and help return to some of the prosperity we have lost.
There are opportunities out there in food production, in tourism,
in renewable energy.
We need to keep our young people at home
by creating well-paid opportunities in high-tech industries.
We CAN help build a new North in a new Ireland.
Let us recognise there will be a positive future beyond this crisis,
but let's start building for it now.
The SDLP stood resolute against violence.
It saw beyond it and put forward a solution.
Its answer - a united people
living in a just and prosperous new Ireland.
While that ambition has still to be achieved, it is still the answer,
only this time there is an economic crisis in the way.
But the SDLP will not allow it to become a block to progress.
That answer lies in coming up with ways to get around the blockage.
That is what we'll deliver for you
and that is what the SDLP is committed to doing.
This weekend the SDLP will gather for its annual conference
and will elect a new leader, who, along with the party membership,
will reaffirm that commitment.
The SDLP - creating jobs, supporting people.