Thursday 12 November 2009

SDLP – a sad sight

Fionnuala O'Connor delivers a hard message on the SDLP and its leadership race in today's Irish Times, with this conclusion:
"For some older Northern nationalists, the SDLP’s descent is still demoralising, even shocking. Peace though was made against a backdrop of a Catholic community which had achieved pretty much all to which it aspired. Now, many look at the SDLP and ask what is it for. Many unionists unable to so much as voice the word “power- sharing” may drag their feet for years yet, before fully accepting the idea of equality. Society has changed despite them.

Sinn Féin may be in an awkward position at the minute, ambitions slapped down at least temporarily in the Republic, powerless to overcome DUP stonewalling. Yet electorally in the North, as the SDLP ages and sinks, it has a clear field and is only likely to get stronger rather than weaker.

Meanwhile the SDLP is pushed to choose the hapless Durkan’s successor from a very modest pool of 15 MLAs, among whom there is not a single obvious leader.

It is a sad sight. A party once of political stars and political strength today lacks both."

Coming so soon after the official launch of Margaret Ritchie's campaign for the SDLP leadership, this is a vote of no confidence whatsoever in her – but also in Alasdair McDonnell, her rival. Neither, according to Fionnuala O'Connor, are 'obvious leaders'.

The SDLP faces into a leadership election without the confidence of one of its principal southern cheerleaders – the Irish Times – and then shortly afterwards into an election campaign under the leadership of a weak and 'unobvious' leader, whoever that is.

Sad times indeed for the SDLP. The party needs to wake up and reconnect with the new political realities. It is clearly at serious risk of being an also-ran in Northern politics – a footnote in the history books of the future.

A first step towards rediscovering its relevance would be to decide whether it is a socialist party or a catholic conservative party. In either case it should then proceed to establishing formal links – even a merger – with the relevant party in the south. A socialist SDLP should merge with Labour to form an all-Ireland Labour or Social Democrat party. A catholic conservative party should merge with Fianna Fáil.

In reality, of course, the SDLP is both socialist and catholic conservative in parts. But this combination does not work, so the party may need to be broken up and the two tendencies could then separately join with their southern sister parties. New stronger all-Ireland parties could absorb other smaller parties, groups and individuals supportive of their positions and policies.

Out of the death of the SDLP a new and better political landscape could emerge. But as long as the SDLP clings to life it will not happen. All the more reason to put it out of its misery quickly. Another poor leader – Ritchie or McDonnell – will not help it.


shane said...

Cameron says he wants to attract Conservative Catholic votes. Would it not be fair to say that most Catholics in Northern Ireland who are Conservative tend to lean towards a more Christian Democrat version of Conservatism, such as one finds in Fine Gael/Fianna Fail or Christian Democrats in the European Continent, than with the Anglosphere neo-liberal style of Conservatism (Canadian Tories, American Republicans, Australian Liberals etc). I think that most Conservative Catholics in NI would feel more at home with Merkel or Sarkozy than with Cameron, or am I wrong?

hoboroad said...

Yes and a lot of middle class Catholics own property in the South of France and are strongly Pro-Europe unlike Mr Cameron. I have never seen any anti-Europe feeling amongst Catholics in the North.

Watcher said...

Merkel and Sarkozy don't stand in NI.

Watcher said...

Actually, The DUP would be the natural home for these people - centrist on bread and butter issues and conservative on baby killing and queers. Paisley's been hanging around with cardinals, bishops and priests for quite a while now, so the theological differences (vast, but not problematic for middle class bible bashers or bead rattlers on a day to day basis) don't really matter.

Claret anyone?

Anonymous said...

Haha at Watcher. Thank God you're not on my side lad.

Watcher said...

Which side are you on?

Watcher said...

The reality is, that eventually The SDLP will split into left, right and green groupings. The middle class claret swiggers will join The UUP/Conservatives (The UUP bit will disappear at some point in the next ten years), the left wing moaners will become part of The UK Labour party (which will eventually seek seats in Ulster) and the green slime will join SF (pretty much The SDLP's replacement). The DUP too will disappear, with the rightists joining The Conservative party and the tiny number of leftists The Labour party. The Alliance party will disappear completely.

If you want to know what Ulster's political and social make up will be in twenty years time - see Scotland today. Sectarianism will still exist, but it wont dominate politics. Nationalism will still exist, but it will be non-violent and never achieve more than 30/40% of the vote. A border poll will never be called.

Anonymous said...

Dream on Watcher. Whatever makes you sleep at night.

Watcher said...

What makes me sleep at night is the fact that The Republic's government have zero interest in incorporating a million Unionists who hate Ireland into their state with all that might entail and that even if those Unionists did reluctantly agree to a United Ireland, The Republic could not raise the cash necessary to maintain The Northern Irish (Protestant and Catholic) in the custom to which they are now all accustomed. Perhaps Nationalists should have kept The Ulster Catholics poor after all?

The above scenario is merely the logical outworking of these realities coupled with relative peace brought about by The IRA's surrender and SF's co-option into a subordinate UK assembly.

Anonymous said...

Reply to Watcher at 22:27:

This is the one thing he says that is rational. He does make some valid points here, as opposed to his usual juvenile name-calling. I too wonder about the consequences of absorbing a hostile Protestant community. No one can say for sure what would happen because it is unprecedented. I also am not sure about Eire's ability to financially deal with N.I. These are two big reasons why I have long thought a partition of N.I. might be better.

Anonymous said...

To say there are a million Unionists who hate Ireland is completely ludicrous. Many Unionists are decent, sensible and democratic people. Its only the bigoted scumbags like Watcher who are the problem.

When Irish re-unification happens there will of course be resistance in the north. Nothing that can't be dealt with however.

Watcher said...

Do all The Irish share your stoicism? I mean really.

Anonymous said...

Where's does the million come from? The numbers aren't even near 900,000.

The only resistance if the people of the North voted for unification would come from poor working class loyalist areas. At the end of the day terrorism can never defeat democracy.

What would you do Watcher in the event that the democratic will of the people wanted unification?

Anonymous said...

They hate Ireland and they live in Ireland. Strange!

Anonymous said...

Once again, Eire = Ireland, not the republic. I.E. Eire = the whole island. Why is this so complicated?

The unionists already live in Eire.

Anonymous said...

The country of Ireland was known as Éire from the time of the 1937 Constitution until the 1948 Republic of Ireland Act which said the name of the state was Ireland (Éire in Irish) while the description of the state is the Republic of Ireland.

If you want to read a good article about the name of the country of Ireland and the back & forth between the Irish going out of their way to promote the use of Ireland as the name, while at the same time the British going out of their way to always use the Republic of Ireland.

Anonymous said...

My use of Eire is simply a political term to denote the 26-county Republic of Ireland. Its' the general term used where I live in North America to refer to the republic. It is true that Eire is Ireland and I suppose vice-versa, but that is basically a geographical term. For that matter all of Ireland is part of the British isles too. But that is also a non-specific, non-political term too.

Anonymous said...

Do you suffer from plastic paddy syndrome?

What part of "North America" do they use Éire do refer to the country of Ireland?

Cause I have lived half my life in Ireland and the other half in Boston and the kind of statement that you have just made I would expect to come from some thick yank that read some book and goes around acting like he just stepped off the boat cause he knows one word in Irish..........

Quit making up shit

picador said...

The SDLP are apparently backing Edwin Poots's attempted gerrymander of the Dunmurry boundary!

Watcher said...

Is it true that some of these SDLP types are rolling in it? If so I'd like a list of which of them earns the most cash (excluding the cash they get from politics obviously)...

Anonymous said...

Do I suffer from "plastic paddy syndrome"?

I doubt it very much, since I'm not Irish and have no pretensions to being so. Nor am I british, or even a Christian for that matter. Not that it is any of your business.

The part of "North America" I live in is central Ontario. That is a Canadian province by the way, which makes me neither a "Yank" or a "Bostonian". But undoubtedly you realize that with your profound insight. (Sarcasm off).

"Quit making up S***".

Like what exactly? Everything I have posted is either factual or my viewpoint.

Eire is used here in the news to refer to the republic of Ireland. Using the term "Ireland" to descibe the Republic and Ulster is misleading and wrong, since "Ireland" is currently composed of two different countries- the Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Would you use "Hispanolia" to describe Haiti and the Dominican Republic? Of course not. You would use the names of there respective countries.

Your post was rude, uncalled for and inapropriate.

One last point. This will undoubtedly come as a shock to you but there are Irish and Irish-descended people in "North America" who DON'T live in Boston.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for my first remark, I now realize it is not your fault since you appear to be mentally challenged..

Ireland = English
Éire = Irish

You understand that they both refer to the same thing? the island.

You also realize that the country (the Republic) is also officially know as;

Ireland = English
Éire = Irish

Maybe this is hard for you to understand, but you can't always tell what a person is referring too.

So if you hear an American say my great grand father is from Ireland he is probably referring to the island.

If you hear the news refer to things like "crime is up in Ireland" or "taxes go up in Ireland" they are talking about the country.

So today if you were watching the France-Ireland football game on TV5 in Quebec (cause I have never lived there before loser) you would see that they have Ireland listed as Eire. That is because Eire & Ireland can mean the same thing. They can either refer to the island or the country of the same name.

If TV5 wanted to be correct they would add "République" to the name but because most people have a brain, they should be able to tell that an country can have a football team, an island cannot.


hoboroad said...

I see Doctor McDonnell of the SDLP says there is a body of opinion in the party that favours withdrawing from the Power-Sharing Executive. I wonder what his rival Margaret Richie thinks of that considering she is the only SDLP minister in the Executive?

Watcher said...

Doctor McDonell? -

Is he a medic? If so he must be used to a very high income, especially since Labour came to power and raised GP earnings (and gave them a lot better working conditions). He's the type of guy I'm talking about who must be getting bored with slumming it with bible bashers and ex-jail birds. No wonder he wants the assembly to collapse, as he's probably looking forward to a position in a future UK Labour government. Even more earnings, power and prestige in London.

On another point, Stormount is a joke. The system should be changed so that power sharing only takes place between the largest Unionist and largest Nationalist party, thereby creating an opposition.

hoboroad said...

More likely to seek a merger between the SDLP and Fianna Fail. After all his friends from his University days are in Fianna Fail.

Watcher said...

Yes, we all remember leap frogging down the quad. Fond memories, but hardly relevant to today's realities.

Why join a party in a foreign state, when that party can't influence your own state's policies, let alone influence the lives of those you represent. Sounds like tokenism to me.

What exactly would be the difference in sending a FF man to Westminster rather than an SDLP man? I'd say absolutely nothing. OK, FF might give The SDLP some help against SF in Ulster, but I doubt they'd effect SF's vote in the longer term. All the little taigs like SF in the same way that so many young working class people support The BNP in England.

No, in the long term there will only be one Nationalist party in Ulster and it's name will be SF. It will achieve absolutely nothing and it's candidates if elected will exercise no influence at national level.

There will be a left wing Unionist (small 'u') party in Ulster and it will gain seats at national level. The SDLP can become the core of that party, if it acts soon enough.

hoboroad said...

A Left-Wing Unionist party led by Sylvia Hermon no doubt but I cannot see it pick up any support outside of North Down. Irish Nationalists seek links with the Irish Republic not with London. Fianna Fail will do nicely for the SDLP they will go together like two peas in a pod.

Watcher said...

I could seek links with Japan, but it would be tokenistic and pointless.

The left wing unionist party I speak off will be The UK Labour party - the only realistic option in the long term. I'm talking at least ten years down the road here. The SDLP is perfectly placed to fit in with New Labour, although, as I've said, it will gradually lose it's ultra-Catholic members to The Conservative Party and it's fevered Nationalists to Sinn Fein.

hoboroad said...

If New Labour lose the next General Election and Gordon Brown is removed as leader. He will be replaced by someone like David Milliband or Harriet Harman. New Labour will be entering a political wilderness for 15 years or so. Why to hell would the SDLP want to join them?

Watcher said...

Good point! Maybe the Catholic wing should decamp to The Conservative party instead.

Actually, I think there's little chance of The Labour party sliding back to the far left and I think the next election might be closer than you think.

hoboroad said...

Milliband and Harman are hardly far left. Harman may have been 30 years ago but she sold out whatever left wing principals she ever had years ago. Whoever takes over once they lose the election will be taking over a party in a real mess. If the General Election is close and results in a hung Parliament the Liberal Democrats will look to extract a commitment from Labour on Proportional Representation in exchange for there support.

Watcher said...

Not necessarily a bad thing. Pros and cons in PR I'd say.

westone said...

nah,hartriets as out there now as she ever hase been.certainly,she may have different views on economics nowadays,in all other aspects she's as loony as any loony left council was back in th 80's