This weekend saw Colum Eastwood make his first address as leader of the SDLP. It is a time mixed with worry, fear and also optimism.
Many see the fresh faced candidate as the charismatic force the party has cried out for for over a decade. His speech was certainly one to get the party motivated and was met with a very positive party response. Many believe that the dark days of decline are over.
There are some signs of optimism. The leader is definitely much more of a dynamic vote winner. He is from the SDLP's heartland of Derry. He has a strong team behind him, including many younger members like Clare Hanna and Nicola Mallon.
However, with elections looming he has enormous challenges too. Northern Ireland's major parties - the DUP and SF are playing their top trump card - Who will be the largest party? Sinn Fein definitely aspire to overtake the DUP as the largest party (in the centenary years of the Easter rising) to capitalise on their recent gains in the Republic of Ireland. They also have set their sights on Derry for the prize with Martin McGuinness personally targeting the Foyle seat (from his previous one of Mid Ulster) Against this weary familiar backdrop of head counting, can Eastwood hold his own?
Mr John Wishart -