The SDLP was for many years the leading institution representing the catholic minority in Northern Ireland since the province's establishment. It was formed in 1971 as a coalition between the old Nationalist Party members, republican socialists, and civil rights campaigners. It was initially led by Gerry Fitt, representative of Belfast's Labour tradition. It joined the power‐sharing executive of 1973–4 and suffered from its rapid collapse. In 1979 John Hume was elected leader and developed effective contact with politicians in Dublin, Brussels, and the USA. The SDLP's electoral dominance among the catholic community was challenged by Sinn Fein and in the Assembly election in March 2007 it gained only 16 seats against 28 for Sinn Fein.
Subjects: European History.