Conall McDevitt has left the SDLP with some explaining to do.

Reacting to the personal health care decisions taken by Gerry Adams, the Irish Indo* reports an attack by the SDLP’s Conall McDavitt McDevitt in the following terms.

“In terms of socialism and social democracy, this is against SDLP values of not seeking better treatment simply because you have more money”.

Since the South Belfast MLA’s Stormont appearances mean he trousers considerably more cash, vacation and benefits than most of Northern Ireland’s and indeed the world’s workers I assume that whatever mélange of values McDevitt is drawing on, his beef is with private citizens choosing to access private health care and not with the broader phenomenon of some “having more”.

So, either McDavitt McDevitt is launching a new SDLP sideline in moral and financial advice for private citizens or worse (I think worse) we’re seeing the beginning of an SDLP advocacy campaign designed to pass legislation that would restrict access to private health care per se. Neither option should fill SDLP supporters with optimism.

McDavitt’s McDevitt’s sentiment – for it could hardly be considered a coherent policy position – should alarm all citizens concerned with basic liberties. Why is it any of McDevitt’s damn business how you and your family choose to use whatever wealth you have in pursuit of the best healthcare you can avail of?

If he was on-script, the South Belfast MLA’s expressed hostility towards citizens seeking to use private wealth in pursuit of private health care raises fundamental questions about his party’s current ideological compass and whether it understands much about a modern economy, the role and source of innovation and the role of the state. Questions like these:

1. Is the SDLP seeking to restrict the right to access private health care?
2. What in the SDLP’s view should citizens “with more” do when faced with the option of accessing better health care than is available on the NHS?
3. Should health care decisions concerning one’s private use of private wealth be left to private individuals or should the SDLP and the state be given a seat at the kitchen table as families consider their options?
4. Does the Social Democratic and Labour Party no longer understand the difference between social democracy and socialism?

The SDLP, to its credit, has never been a socialist party despite a preponderance of self-described “socialists” within its aging ranks. If the party’s next generation of politicians is more in touch with the 1980s British Labour Party than the challenges and opportunities posed by the modern world then there really is no medicine capable of aiding its fading light. At least no medicine enough of its current members seem willing to drink.

* I have withheld a link to the Indo article as a protest in the face of the stupidity of the Irish Press’s link-charging fiasco. You can find the article via the sainted John Fay’s Nuzhoud site. Don’t leave it too long to look. If the current thinking persists, such papers won’t be around much longer.