By Tommy Gallagher - Former SDLP MLA

The partnership proposal has wisely, in my view, stopped short of a merger and since it requires the support of the majority of party members will be discussed in detail by them in the coming weeks.

Coming at a time when people need some signs from politicians that people’s grave concerns about political stalemate here are being listened to the partnership proposal will be closely watched by many others outside the party especially in N. Ireland. The SDLP is a party founded on the moral principles of justice, peace and reconciliation and will remain faithful to those principles in all circumstances and in whatever political arrangements emerge.

At present the ongoing rancour between Sinn Féin and the DUP has denied people representation at this critical time. Added to this is a high level of anger and dismay about the abuses of power within the previous Executive at Stormont, abuses recently brought to light. Meanwhile as we know the majority of Unionist and Nationalists in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU - yet we are forced to watch the expressed wishes of the community being cynically disregarded at Westminster and elsewhere.

It is therefore a source of encouragement for many that some politicians choose to come together to respond to the difficult challenges at this time. For SDLP members and supporters their party will retain its unique identity with no compromise of its values and principles, values and principles which will always be at the core of democracy and which are badly needed in the present crisis situation which has promoted high levels of division and tribalism.

It is widely acknowledged by democrats around the world that the vision and values at the heart of SDLP policy and so often articulated by John Hume laid the basis for the Good Friday Agreement and the relationships on this island and between these islands. It laid a solid foundation for good neighbourly relationships and meaningful democracy.

Under the proposal SDLP and Fianna Fail have committed to renewing and restoring the agreement in the face of the current crisis. The current political failure is the result of not having partnership, inclusion and respect for difference central in government.

The combined efforts of SDLP and Fianna Fail to put this right deserve to be listened to and democrats have nothing to fear from an initiative that has peace justice and reconciliation at its core.