Brid Rodgers supports SDLP candidate Conall McDevitt
The former SDLP minister Brid Rodgers has endorsed the leadership campaign of the South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt.
Mr McDevitt was her adviser when Ms Rodgers was agriculture minister from 1999 until the assembly was suspended in 2002.
At his campaign launch on Sunday, he called for the negotiation of a new system of government at Stormont.
Mr McDevitt is the youngest of the four SDLP leadership contenders.
In a rare intervention into active party politics, Ms Rodgers announced that she is backing his campaign.
"A few people have said to me, maybe it's too soon for Conall," she said.
"My answer to that is, it's not too soon for the SDLP because we have to act now.
"Time is not on our side."
Mr McDevitt told party activists at the launch of his campaign in Belfast, that he wanted to lead the SDLP into the next election by offering voters "compelling reasons" to put the party back at the heart of regional and national politics.
"We will show all those who have become disconnected from us or disillusioned with politics, that the SDLP can again deliver for them," he said.
"On the issues that matter most to people, the SDLP will once again lead the way.
"And we won't just appeal to them with rhetoric.
"We will show that we can actually deliver for people across Northern Ireland on the issues that affect their lives."
Mr McDevitt said although Northern Ireland had a stable government, it was also stagnant and incapable of taking the big decisions.
"The current executive has been unable to address the crises in our health service, our economy and our education system.
"The SDLP has strong ideas on all these vital issues.
"We have to develop a new system of government - one that ensures parties will be working together in the public's best interests, not their own."
Three other candidates have also put their names forward to stand in the leadership contest.
South Belfast MP Alastair McDonnell, the current Environment Minister Alex Attwood and mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone have now all declared.