The vice-chairman of the SDLP has resigned from his position, launching a bitter attack on the party and its leadership.
Eddie Espie described his former colleagues as “destroyers and dinosaurs” who are “corrupted by quick-fix solutions”.
He said that he continued top believe there was space for an alternative nationalist party to Sinn Fein, but the SDLP was no longer that alternative.
He has also resigned as chairman of the party’s key internal committee, the elections and organisations committee.
In a 1,600-word resignation letter to party chairwoman Patricia Lewsley, Mr Espie said the SDLP was no longer the party he had joined.
“In my opinion, it has become polluted by obstinate representatives, corrupted by quick-fix self-interested solutions and ruined by pig-headed individuals displaying complete indiscipline,” he said.
“I am no longer prepared to preside over or have any part in the unremitting demise of the SDLP nor will I allow myself to be corrupted, polluted or caged.”
Mr Espie said people who had previously voted for the SDLP were now choosing to stay at home and would continue to do so.
“In the background of vagueness and instability, those who most intensely oppose reforms [in the party] have thrived. The destroyers and the political dinosaurs have taken advantage of political inactivity by generating artificial hope through unfilled promises,” he said.
“The SDLP will not be a serious contender in the predicted assembly elections next year or in any election subsequently because it refuses to study hard lessons from the past, in particular from the assembly elections of 2003. To date, it has failed miserably to do so.
“The current assembly group of 18 elected members is unlikely to be returned. When this happens, and given the ongoing proposals in the Review of Public Administration, the percentage share nationalist councillors currently enjoy will plummet appreciably.”
Mr Espie accused the party leadership of squandering the lifeline thrown to it by last May’s Westminster and local government elections and of instead providing little strategic direction.
“The situation where some senior staff at ‘headquarters’, in collaboration with cabals who run the party, disregard the opinions and needs of grass-roots members is indefensible.
“Common courtesy costs nothing but means a lot to these dedicated members across the North,” he said.
“So long as the leadership cabals refuse to acknowledge the problems that exist and refuse to address them, this demise will continue.
“The systematic exploitation of the party decision-making bodies, branches, constituencies and committees, all the way through to the executive committee by individuals should never have been sanctioned.
“Family connections and those with careers close to party representatives continue to deadlock crucial fundamental reforms, to the detriment of the party.”
Mr Espie said he believed the SDLP was leaving a political vacuum within nationalism.
“The fact remains that a large proportion of the nationalist people in the North will never and could never vote for Sinn Fein,” he said.
“But unless the overhaul begins with immediate effect, this opportunity will be lost.