In 2016 are the SDLP drinking in the last chance saloon?

The rise of the Democratic Unionist Party over the last decade and a half has harmed the older Ulster Unionist Party. On the nationalist side, the same thing has happened, but the change has been much more pronounced. Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, has committed himself and his party to recapturing the heights it once enjoyed before the meteoric rise of Sinn Féin. Not afraid to make bold pronouncements, Eastwood has called the SDLP “the most successful political party in Irish history” for its role in the peace process, but not a single election the party has entered since the turn of the 21st century has borne this out.

2003: Slipping

The SDLP was elected as the largest nationalist party when the Assembly first came into being in 1998. It had played an important role in the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement, and its role in Irish history up until that point is beyond dispute. Former party leader John Hume came just over 2,000 votes shy of toppling Ian Paisley as poll topper in the following year’s European elections. After this, however, things started to turn bad for the party. The 2001 Westminster and local elections saw the party’s support begin to ebb away, culminating in a huge drop in the party’s support in the 2003 Assembly election. The SDLP vote fell by 5% and over 60,000 votes.

SDLP 2003In many areas, the SDLP’s vote declined, most notably in South Down, where poll-topping MLA Eddie McGrady stepped down to focus on his work as an MP, allowing the two main unionist parties to make gains. The overall result was catastrophic for the party. The DUP’s eclipse of the UUP pushed the SDLP back from second place, and Sinn Féin’s growth pushed it even further to fourth place overall, with 18 Assembly seats. The Ulster Unionists were under threat from the Democratic Unionists, and with Sinn Féin’s prospects improving with every election through the 2000s, what would this mean for the other nationalist party?

2007: Out of Europe, Down in Stormont

The 2004 European elections were a disaster for the SDLP. John Hume’s retirement meant their European Parliament seat was in serious jeopardy, and with a massive 13% drop in support, the new candidate Martin Morgan fell to fourth place, with Hume’s seat going to Sinn Fein’s Bairbe de Brún. This was the first time since the party’s beginnings that their vote share fell below 100,000. There were further declines in the Westminster and local elections in 2005. 31,000 less votes for the SDLP meant 16 less council seats, and while the party maintained its three seats in the House of Commons, its support dropped by 44,000 votes and 3.5%. By the time of the 2007 Assembly election, the SDLP’s poor performances and Sinn Féin’s continued rise meant the former wasn’t expected to make any gains at all.

SDLP 2007The SDLP’s vote dropped to 105,164, and two seats were lost in West Tyrone and Lagan Valley. The rise of both the DUP and Sinn Féin was having an enormously damaging impact on the party, which seemed unable to get out of the other nationalist party’s shadow. In South Down, traditionally one of the party’s heartlands, the vote dropped even more as Sinn Féin’s Caitriona Ruane topped the poll.

2011: Uphill Battles and Downhill Results

In 2009, Alban Maginness was unable to recapture the SDLP’s lost European Parliament seat. The next year, the party’s vote share fell in the Westminster election, though the party still retained its three seats. The 2011 local elections saw the party’s votes fall below 100,000 again, with a further 14 seats lost. New party leader Margaret Ritchie faced an uphill battle to rebuild her party, and the 2011 Assembly election demonstrated just how difficult this battle had become.

SDLP 2011png94,286 votes (not far above half of their 1998 share) and the loss of two further seats appeared to seal the SDLP’s fate as the fourth place party. There was some good news – Ritchie overtook Ruane to top the poll in South Down – but it was small comfort. Even in Foyle, always a strong SDLP constituency, the margin between the SDLP and Sinn Féin was razor thin. Ritchie stepped down as leader in 2012, succeeded by Alasdair McDonnell. He continued her vocal criticism of Sinn Féin, though this criticism had little effect on voters.

2016: Success and History

Alex Attwood ran for the SDLP in the 2014 European elections, and came within 2,000 first preference votes of the UUP’s Jim Nicholson. Unfortunately for the party, transfers widened that gap, and the party remained in fourth place. The local elections the same year continued the trend of declines, and the 2015 UK general election returned less votes for the SDLP in any Westminster election since the party’s foundation. Against this continued drop in support, the party voted McDonnell out as leader. He was replaced by Colum Eastwood, who has dedicated his first three months as leader to promoting the party as a viable and strong force in Northern Irish politics and reclaiming its old support. Martin McGuinness’ move to Foyle has raised some eyebrows, as commentators predict the deputy First Minister’s personal vote may impact on the SDLP’s support in that area. Eastwood and Mark Durkan are sitting MLAs there, and they have refused to acknowledge McGuinness’ move as any kind of threat, instead promoting the SDLP’s record there. The party are also confident about keeping their South Down support, and possibly making gains in other nationalist areas such as Fermanagh and South Tyrone, where recent troubles on the Sinn Féin ticket might give some aid to the SDLP, though they would need to run more than just the current declared candidate, Ritchie McPhillips.

So what next for “the most successful political party in Irish history”? If Eastwood succeeds in promoting his vision of a revitalised SDLP with an active role to play in Northern Irish politics, then the 2016 Assembly election may finally see a change in the party’s fortunes. If not, it is very difficult to see a viable future for a party which has had an enormous part to play in Northern Ireland’s past.

, , ,

  • mjh

    It’s (almost) impossible to start a viable political party. Equally it is (almost) impossible for one to die after it has successfully survived two or three electoral cycles (10 to 15 years). These two unexciting political rules are as true in Northern Ireland as they are in every democracy.

    The SDLP would undoubtedly survive the loss of a couple of seats. They might even claim it as evidence of some sort of improvement on the five seats they feared loosing in its leaked internal report.

    Even the loss of those five seats would not kill it. True that could give encouragement to Fianna Fail to come north – presenting greater danger to the party. On the other hand it could shock the SDLP into the fundamental soul searching which could give it a new sense of purpose.

    The STV system certainly provides room for two nationalist parties for the foreseeable future. And the SDLP’s performance long term depends at least as much on the voters perception of Sinn Fein as it does on their perception of the SDLP. Arguably more so since SF is the party of government. It is an old truism that oppositions do not win elections, but that governments lose them.

    Whether FF comes north could depend on very much on their performance in the Republic’s election, and what happens in that party afterwards. How NI voters perceive SF could also be coloured in the same way.

    Ironically the SDLP’s fortunes over the next five years may depend more on the election they are not contesting than on the one that they are.

  • hugh mccloy

    Whe you are at the top the only place you can go is down and vice versa, in an nutshell politics

  • Robin Keogh

    The idea that SDLP dont have a future is nonsense. The North is a small field. It elects politicians into powerlessness. With a new young eager leadership and some young shoulders popping up around the place they might well get the lift they need.

  • murdockp

    Firstly I wonder if SDLP Supporter has recovered from the shock of reading this article?

    I agree with your observation, SDLP should have a future and a strong one at that as SF are un-voteable to many who are homeowners and in business like myself.

    There is a large swath of the Nationalist vote they could easily convert into vote if their policies were overhauled.

    Sadly the fresh young talent they now have still dance to the tunes of the old guard puppet masters in the background as the policies are laced with far too much of the legacy conservative, catholic values of the old generation. The abortion vote clearly demonstrated where they are in terms of progressive policy.

    If a full refresh and reboot of the party was allowed to happen and the party allowed to adopt a more liberal and progressive position on many policy issues, I think they would gain real traction.

  • Ernekid

    “Equally it is (almost) impossible for one to die after it has successfully survived two or three electoral cycles (10 to 15 years). ”

    Irish Political history has several examples that disprove this assertion. Just look at the death of the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1918. Cumman na Geadheal ceased to exist little more than a decade after its founding. The decline of the Clann na Talmhan and Clann na Phoblachta parties in the mid 20th century and the erosion of the Irish Nationalist Party in Northern Ireland after 1968 are other examples.

    The Irish Green Party still hasn’t really started to recover from its wipeout in 2011 and in a few weeks time Irish Labour may face a deathly blow from the electorate from which it may not recover.

    There’s no guarantee that a party’s legacy will preserve it into the future. Irish electorates are fickle and political tastes can change quickly. If a party fails to evolve and adapt to changing times then it’ll be resigned to little more than a foot note in a politics text books.

  • Gaygael

    I think that you may be right about the argument as to what equates for success for the new leader. Not losing the five seats predicted might be the baseline.

    After Wednesday’s debacle, they have finally dropped off my transfer list.

  • Jollyraj

    Agreed. I think there will always be a future for the SDLP’s brand of civilized, decent Nationalism, no matter how many times Cain kills Abel.

  • Graham Parsons

    There is no longer any reason to vote for them so they’ll continue to wither and die. They are finished if the Greens or Labour get their act together and a serious socialist, progressive cross community party emerges. The recent abortion vote showed their new leader to be no different from the previous leader.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I’ve long been of the view that the SDLP need to have a presence in the south. Their nationalism is the most simple sort of nationalism shared by almost every political party that exists in any democracy- that is they just happen to be of a certain nationality and want to see their people do well. It doesn’t make sense not to try representative the majority of “your people”. They need to look at the parties in the south and either conclude that one of them is close enough to the SDLP to merge with or if they don’t see that, then necessarily they should be standing. Even if they don’t get seats, they should stand.

    The reason why this is important is that it would end any questions about trying to be Green or trying to out green sinn Fein. They would just be…..green.

  • mjh

    Ernekid
    Yes there are no guarantees. That’s why I said “almost”. Very, very occasionally – maybe once or twice a century – one or more events converge, such as the cumulative effects of immense social change or an existential threat to the existence of the state or an armed uprising, which can cause or complete a fundamental realignment of the party system.

    In Britain it took a World War to be the catalyst for the ending of the Liberal’s participation in the two party system. Yet 100 years later they have still not disappeared. And it took WWII to play a similar role in consolidating Labour’s position in that system.

    In Ireland the convergence of the completion of the decades-long attempts to achieve the passage of a Home Rule Bill, the Ulster crisis, WWI and a Rising were together required to destroy the INP. Famously the two parties which have dominated politics during the history of the Republic were children of a Civil War.

    The turmoil of the early Troubles period was required for the successful creation of Alliance, the SDLP, the DUP and Sinn Fein – and the demise of the Nationalists, Liberals and eventually the NILP.

    That said it is true that STV encourages the creation of micro parties. There have been dozens on both sides of the border. While most of them never take root at all, a small number of them bloom in a small way for an electoral cycle or two – the PD’s or the UK Unionist Party being relatively recent examples – but rarely root deeply or profusely enough to survive much more than a decade. Both Clann na Talmhan (which I admit I had to look up) and Clann na Phoblachta were effectively dead within about 15 years of their first election.

    None of the five main parties can be compared to these brief bloomers. Over successive electoral cycles they have dug themselves in with their own sections of the electorate. The political tsunami necessary to sweep any one of them away would almost certainly be preceded by profound shocks to the social fabric, the economy or security which would be felt personally by wide sections of society.

  • Lionel Hutz

    It’s because people are slow to change party allegiance. Once a person becomes an SDLP supporter, it’s almost like a football team you support. I feel like that with the sdlp and I’m only 30. Trouble for the sdlp is that most their voters are older. They need to give younger people a reason particularly

    Sinn Fein got the younger generation believing that the IRA was instrumental in the achievement of civil rights. That if it weren’t for the IRA we’d be second class citizens. These are people who didn’t live through the troubles. And they buy this bs hook line and sinker

  • As long as there exists no political alternative for the coalition of non-Sinn Féin voters in the nationalist community, SDLP politicians have a career path via this rump of support. If they haven’t switched to Sinn Féin by now, they never will.

    The 2016 Assembly election is fairly predictable for the SDLP; in and around 90,000 votes, hovering around a 12-13% vote share, some 10-15 seats, 1 Executive minister.

    2019, however, is a year that the SDLP may well begin their “drinking in the last chance saloon”, for Fianna Fáil’s northern electoral entry could splinter that coalition of support that maintains what’s left of the SDLP’s electoral presence.

  • Robin Keogh

    I dunno, i am 47 years old. In my early twenties I would have been a Fianna Failer moving towards Labour in my early thirties. Late thirties switched to SF. The more educated I bacame the more i questioned what was being fed to me via the establishment media and traditional political class. So i think people can shift allegience when they honestly question and independently research the prevailing dominant culture, be it social, cultural or political.

  • tmitch57

    “Equally it is (almost) impossible for one to die after it has
    successfully survived two or three electoral cycles (10 to 15 years).”

    “That’s why I said “almost”. Very, very occasionally – maybe once or
    twice a century – one or more events converge, such as the cumulative
    effects of immense social change or an existential threat to the
    existence of the state or an armed uprising,”

    I’m glad that you clarified that. If one looks at American political history, the American Whig Party lasted for 18 years and even managed to elect two presidents (1840, 1848) before it began to dissolve. The economic issues over which the party was founded (a high tariff, internal improvements) gave way to issues related to slavery that caused the northern and southern wings of the party to come apart. This meant that the party was replaced by a sectional anti-slavery party in the Norh and a national nativist American Party that lasted for only two years.

    Plus, the Progressive Democrats did survive for 15 years before going away.

  • tmitch57

    In South Africa the United Party, which had been one of the two main parties alternating in power with the National Party in the interwar period, lost the ability to attract new white voters and their voters from 1948 onward began to die out. In 1959 the small Progressive Party split from the United Party and within twenty years had replaced it as the official opposition party.

  • Graham Parsons

    The reboot is impossible because the Catholic church is part of its dna.

  • Graham Parsons

    UKIP disproves your theory that it is impossible to start a political party. Here in the north we have a very young parliament so I think it’s all still to play for.

  • mjh

    That’s not what I said Graham. I said it was “(almost) impossible to start a viable political party”.

    It’s still too early to tell if UKIP is one of the rare examples of a successful start up.

    It passes one test – having won seats in the European Parliament in four successive electoral cycles, where it now hold 2.9% of the seats (representing 30% of the UK’s seats.)

    But it has only ever won one seat in the House of Commons and has so far only mounted a significant challenge in one UK General Election, it holds no seats in the Scottish, Welsh or London Assemblies, only 1 in Northern Ireland who was elected for the UUP, and under 3% of local council seats in the UK.

    None of that matters if the UK votes Leave in the referendum – since the party will be able to justifiably claim that there would have been no referendum without them. They will have made a significant impact on history.

    But if the country votes Remain it could be enormously difficult for the party to establish a significant core of UKIP voters big enough to make them anything more than a bit player on the margins of non-Euro elections.

    There are two challenges for UKIP:

    Can it turn most of those who support it only in Euro elections into the sort of loyal core that each of the main parties enjoy – voters who will loyally support them whenever they vote?

    And can it retain the voters who supported them in 2015 and build on that base?

    Time will tell.

  • Croiteir

    I do not think the SDLP are finished. I do believe they will lose seats to other parties this election. SF will win a seat of them in Derry, or if not them, perhaps a left wing party. Other seats are not as safe as some here suggest. In any case they will gradually wither. The only things which hold them together for now is self interest in keeping jobs and the hope, for the faith is gone, that a major shift in the voting patterns of nationalists will occur.

    My view of the options for them are as follow.

    Expand into south – not on as it would alienate support from southern parties. This would do them great damage in the north. every election the SDLP get help from the south, especially the eejits in FF, I will expand on this in a minute. I expect them to come north of the border yet again in the coming months. By now I would expect the SDLP leadership will have Alisdair in with the FF TD’s asking them to help canvass, Alex Attwood with the Labour asking them, and some misbegotten character sucking up to FG. Watch while all parties come north to support the SDLP. (As an aside the southern parties are not doing this out of any great love for the northern nationalist, they abandoned us nearly a century ago when we became surplus to needs, but as an attack on the great threat, SF.) If the SDLP expanded into the south that would not happen as the southern parties would perceive the enemy of my enemy suddenly has turning on them. Then we also need to look at capacity. it is no secret that the SDLP have difficulty getting people to stand in many areas. They are weak. The party has a weak activist base. How many teams do you see out on the ground. Usually two or three Trojans trying to cover their inadequacy by postering an area. They cannot expand into the south, they have not the capacity to do so.

    Dissolve – not to be considered, too many snouts in the trough, they need a good exit strategy which guarantees there positions which is not available.

    Merge with another party from the south. Which one. Will it be FF? hardly likely as the SDLP are very cosy with Labour, (I know – stupid – but the alternative on the left is?), and if they do merge it will not be pretty, people will disappear in all directions everywhere so that would not be to the advantage of the party they are merging into so why would they do it? Surely the rational thing for any party who would even consider this is to start up and offer a limited time period for existing poliicians to jump ship. Force the waverers to desert and kill of the SDLP – that way they would be a clean break, no negative backage to carry on with.
    This is why the SDLP have no option but to carry on as they are doing now
    O yes – why are FF eejits as far as their support for the SDLP is concerned, the SDLP are using them, it has no grá for FF, they are firmly in with Labour now Eastwood has the reins, he is in Atttwood’s pocket as far as I can see. Watch the developments over the next few months. here is a prediction, labour TD’s north of the border in campaign with the SDLP against brexit. You heard it here first folks.

  • Discuscutter

    They have a future if they merge with a party in the South, it will keep them as an existing structure and provide an opportunity to grow.

    It will give them a way to compete with SF, it will give them more heft politically.

    As it stands at the moment it is a slow attrition and the long term trend is downwards

    On its own I do not see the SDLP having the resources, the passion or the activists to halt the decline.

  • Discuscutter

    We’ll see yet if FF will run in the North, people in its Northern branch may decide to but will HQ allow them.

    I can’t see HQ helping them that much, the opposite in fact.
    Especially if Micheal Martin or Micheal McGrath are in charge.

    FF members are viewed as an awkward sop to the traditionalist roots by the leadership.

  • Cavehill

    I want to add the PDs into your list of start-up parties that went on to Government and then fizzled out.

  • Discuscutter

    Parties rarely die but they can wander and wither for a generation.

    Look at the IPP after 1918, it carried on in one form or another for many decades after in the form of the Nationalist party and others down south.

    Like FF in Dublin and other parts their structures can wither away, local Councillors not on the ground, the party doesn’t exist in a meaningful way in large parts of the city. It has been replaced there.

    The same threat is there for the SDLP what if their future is assured but only at 7-10 seats and those on the back of votes from 50+.

  • Discuscutter

    The living dead.

  • Robin Keogh

    Actually i think you are quite wrong there. The Southern membership is very keen to hop on the ticket in the six counties. 2019 council and euro elections are a great opportunity for them to gauge where there strengths might be and where to build from. I doubted their intent for quite sometime but now i think they are almost ready for the challenge.

  • Discuscutter

    I’d of put you at 27 by that photo.

    The revolution is treating you well.

  • Discuscutter

    I hope I am wrong.

    How will that go down in party HQ, among the Ard Comhairle, and in the back room.

    Maybe as the Micheal Martin’s, Dorgans, o’Deas etc retire they will advance but if the Northern members do not push it they will not find FF leadership in the rest of the country willing to do so.

    The members in the rest of the country seem to be largely for it but the more powerful their influence the less that seems to be.

  • mjh

    An excellent summary of the reasons why the idea of the SDLP moving south is a complete non-starter, of why merger with a southern party would do far more harm to it than good, and why a FF that was serious about winning a place at the Executive table in Stormont would be mad to consider a take-over of the SDLP as a realistic route in.

    The fact is that there is no magic potion for the SDLP which is going to deliver instant growth. Their only option is to “keep buggering on” either until SF slips (which in politics is inevitable), or the future presents them with a more attractive strategic option (which it may or may not do).

  • Ernekid

    There might not be much of Labour left for the SDLP to work with. They are at 6-8% in the polls and might loose their leader. If both Labour and SDLP face real electoral turmoil in 2016. It could lead to them to pooling their limited resources together.

    Personally I’m suprised there has been no bridge building between Stephen Donnelly and Roisin Shortall Social Democrats and the SDLP. They seem like natural bedfellows

  • Ernekid

    Good point, I should have mentioned the PDs. They are a excellent case study for the birth and death of an irish political party.

  • Jollyraj

    Which six counties are you referring to?

  • Croiteir

    Yep – if I was the SDLP I would ditch the Labour Party – but I fear that the Social Democrats have as yet nothing to bring to the party/Party So were else to go?

  • Croiteir

    I also doubt it – the 2019 promise was not a promise, it was just an observation. Have you seen or heard of any move whatsoever on the ground? They have not been knocking any doors or running any recruitment drives. It is only 3 years to the councils and the euro’s yet which profiles have they decided to build on?

  • Robin Keogh

    OMG ! You have totally made my day after a crappy morning and afternoon. Heading for dinner and then the ballet tonight and u have put a smile on my face 😉

  • Discuscutter

    lol. Enjoy.

  • Discuscutter

    The Northern Membership might do something on their own and get a few elected but that will have to be with the HQ breathing fire down their neck to stop them while sending a few TDs up for a photo shoot.

    An Ard Fheis motion is not the same as action on the ground.

    As far as I can see most of their structures, even that little, are near dormant in the North.

  • Croiteir

    I can’t see that happening – who could be bothered to absorb all the abuse and hard work as well as expose their families to it for a party which at best is hostile to you standing.

  • Discuscutter

    I know but it would be great if they did run and supplant the SDLP and I say that as someone who despises FF.

    Hope springs eternal but we’ll both be stunned if FF ever had more than 2 cllrs in all the 6.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘In 2016 are the SDLP drinking in the last chance saloon?’

    They’re having a lock in, to be fair.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Always with the “Get their Act Together” excuse. Why aren’t the Greens getting their act together, why do Labour NI have fewer members in Northern Ireland than PBPA?
    If only there were a way to be progressive without having to work for it.

    The whole Get Their Act Together nonsense excuses anything, we live in a democracy not a talent show where the opinion of one or four can undermine the rest. It’s not the SDLP’s fault non-voters won’t vote for or join these parties, they’re individuals who can think for themselves.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’d see a Southern Ireland Social Democrats and Labour Party merger more likely, then it becomes a brand issue.

  • Kevin Breslin

    UKIP is technically a rebrand of a Conservative Party splinter group called the Referendum Party.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And why shouldn’t people stick to parties that they trust, Swing voters are rare unless parties move onto other parties’ ground. What we see in Northern Ireland is a lot of arrogance where Party A’s supporter thinks insulting Party B is enough to win massive swings from Party B’s support. Who better to trust to be good judge of political issues than an arrogant person more concerned with a Party to address the broad range of them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think given that the SDLP is probably going to return with one of the youngest Assembly teams relying on a generational shift to ensure their voters die out is rather naive. Young people are reluctant to vote, and if they choose to vote when they get older they are not going to give that vote away easily. We’ve seen turnouts decline a bit, we are still seeing elections use only bottom line tribalism and we are seeing a very difficult social, political and economic ecosystem for parties to bring change. I also think politics here is too patriarchal even in terms of fringe parties, there’s very few politicians coming from backgrounds where they do have the real life experience to bring about change, very few come from a private sector background (as opposed to using their salaries to invest in outside businesses ) outside of the legal professionals at a time we are effectively being forced to grow our private sector, I’m not talking about managing one even Gerry Adams time behind bars (working the stock) would count. The Labour Parties on both islands have the same problem at the mo, as do many of the left wing groups. I think generally there’s a fear any interaction with the business community is seen as flirting with New Labourism or a Democratic Party Third Way.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The ANC have been top in South Africa for decades, they may go down eventually but staying top for now may be the way things pave out next elections too. Gravity doesn’t pull things together all the time, in the last few weeks we have discovered it oscillates sometimes.

  • mjh

    UKIP was founded in 1993. The Referendum Party came a year later. It’s hard to see any significant difference between them – apart from the ego of Jimmy Goldsmith.

  • the rich get richer

    If you just stay in the last chance saloon then whats to worry about !

    Sinn Fein have stalled in the North. This must give an opportunity to the Sdlp. It remains to be seen if they take it or not.

    It probably would be a god idea to come up with policies that attract the people of the future.

  • Kev Hughes

    TRGR, the stoops are a bused flush. I’ve been to and done lock ins; it’s a sad state of affairs where people should realise they’ve had too much to drink and should just go home.

    SF have taken their eye of the ball up north for, you know, what’s going on right now in the south. That’s where the real power is, not the glorified county council in stormont. The SDLP are going the same way as labour and Scottish labour and if there’s a cold snap and a late winter fuel payment then their remaining vote will be decimated.

  • Old Mortality

    Going to the ballet?
    Robin, you’ll have to ditch such haut bourgeois enthusiasms if you want to progress in SF.

  • Robin Keogh

    You would be surprised

  • Kev Hughes

    Are you hoping to hasten the decline of the SDLP? You guys should join your bedfellows in FG, much more in line with the base.

  • Kevin Breslin

    No I wasn’t talking about hasting the decline of the SDLP, I was talking about another SDLP being founded in the 26 counties.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well you are right and I stand corrected, UKIP were a rebranded Anti Federalist League, the Referendum Party merged with.

  • Kev Hughes

    You guys are conservative and pretty middle-class; you wouldn’t dare infringe on Joan’s franchise in the South or enter into some form of discussions with them. That, and, your base is FG types.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’ll reserve the term conservative to the parties that have been at the top and haven’t produced substantial changes for the good of the wider population. There hasn’t been major economic legislation passed by these groups, there’s been a social investment slush fund that has had next to no returns, it raised stealth property taxes and hardly any cohesion and integration strategy and nearly ten years of policies to keep things the way they are, maybe Fine Gael should merge with the right wing orginisation that claims to be the continuation of its father Sinn Féin?

    I suppose neither is as right wing as the fascist gangsters that are murdering people now and murdered people during the Troubles.

  • Kev Hughes

    Tsk tsk KB, someone is tetchy this morning, if my memory serves me right, you have ‘no agenda’ though you, of course, campaign for the SDLP.

    ‘I’ll reserve the term conservative to the parties that have been at the top and haven’t produced substantial changes for the good of the wider population. ‘ That should probably include the SDLP when Mallon did such a sterling stint as dFM, wouldn’t you agree?

    ‘There hasn’t been major economic legislation passed by these groups,’ – I’ll hold my breath on the SDLP’s incredible record then whilst in the executive? They are in govt too you know.

    ‘there’s been a social investment slush fund that has had next to no returns,’ – where are your KPIs. You’re a man who loves evidence, could you share that with the group here please?

    ‘maybe Fine Gael should merge with the right wing orginisation that claims to be the continuation of its father Sinn Féin?’ – a great idea. I am sure FF are waiting to line up with them.

    ‘I suppose neither is as right wing as the fascist gangsters that are murdering people now and murdered people during the Troubles.’ – you’re right, I too am no fan of the RUC, British government security apparatus or the loyalist thugs they helped. Nor am I a fan of kids getting their knees blown off for dealing drugs. Nor am I a fan of the SDLP which have, time and time again, shown themselves to be incredibly conservative mouth pieces who’ve frankly abandoned working class estates for far safer (intellectually) middle class welfarism. You want an example? How about my home estate of Drumbeg in Tullygally, Craigavon. Dolores Kelly could’ve talked issues, instead she spouted about how SF took her posters down and that they are fascists (seems to be the norm within SDLP circles nowadays with the violence against the English language and the meaning of words) when in fact it was a bunch of hoods/teens who did it for shits and giggles. Nothing on the issues that face the area, not a sausage. I would love to say I remember her and others calling to my door when I lived there to canvas for my vote but that was only once when I had questions on the Patten reforms in my late teens and their canvasser just refused to discuss the matter. Or how the MLAs for your party are a fairly socially conservative bunch?

    But you go ahead and misdirect everyone on a thread about the SDLP and it’s shortcomings. Deflect, misdirect, bring SF into; unfortunately for you, that won’t win you votes and, as I said elsewhere, the way your support is now if there is a prolonged cold snap and a delay in winter heat payments then your vote will be decimated.

  • Kev Hughes

    I’ve looked at your response and I just love it. Do you know why? Because I hit this great big nerve there. You didn’t even respond to the points raised! No, you think I’m a shinner so you went with your single transferable response that every Stoop does; that they’re angels walking this earth in comparison to all and how lucky (implied) to have such ‘decent’ folks.

    You skated around the charge that you’re in fact, ineffective and conservative and, frankly, dying off. Nope, you went for ‘at least we’re not fascists like so and so’.

    You’re priceless KB, I’d love to see you wrap on my door. 😀

  • Kevin Breslin

    Firstly, I’ll address Mallon-Trimble and the SIF together:

    Mallon and Trimble have never come up with any policy like the SIF, they didn’t raise the number of SPADs from 4 to 8 in that department and they didn’t take from the DUP run or SF run departments for their departments.

    So there was power sharing, rather than power grabbing. To me the great legacy of the Mallon-Trimble era was the decentralization of power and responsibility.

    Social Investment Fund seems to me like a mechanism to re-centralize power with OFMDFM. The KPI on the Social Investment fund is summed up in this adequate quote:
    “Ten months after the Social Investment Fund was due to have finished and to have spent £80m on alleviating poverty in the process, the actual spend is only £4m,”

    That’s not how a fund behaves, that’s how a bank behaves. This “fund” was mainly harvested from the Department of the Environment and the Department of Learning and Employment, future resources and future skills. To me investing in the environment and skills has a key role in fighting poverty and getting enough economic activity so that investing in say Magee Expansion becomes easier with income generated from that investment.

    There’s effectively been a power grab and not much responsibility from it. Why does money need to be grabbed by OFMDFM from DEL to set up employment centers, why does money need to be grabbed from the DOE to set up recycling centers? Even Sinn Féin’s own run department of DCAL is getting gazumped here and money spent on things that come under the remit of culture, some of the agriculture department, some education, health, some social and regional development too.

    https://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/articles/social-investment-fund-projects

    I’m happy to stand corrected that the SIF probably is the ONE major economic policy made by the two parties at the top of the government, but if 4m is spent, it suggests that there are significant delays dating back 10 months for approved projects, banking the money rather than funding projects. Alliance suggested this SIF be moved to the department for Communities, but it still remains the a Department for the Executive (OFMDFM Nua) matter in the next mandate. Why?

    Welfare can be handed back to Westminster, but responsibility for Employment and Community centers can’t be handed back to DEL/DoC because Alliance run the department. Why?

    I will have to see what investments these decisions are made five years down the road, at the moment not a lot of the money is money spent. If it fails these parties cannot shirk responsibility onto the SDLP and Alliance who’s departments have faced some of the tightest squeezes.

    So if you want to ask where the underinvestment in Drumbeg in Tullygally, Craigavon come from, you can blame Mark H Durkan in the DoE, you can blame Farry and Ford in DETI and DoJ, you can blame any other ministers. If it requires Social Investment, is the Social Investment fund delivering for it? If not the responsibility doesn’t even lie with Sinn Féin or the DUP, it lies squarely with Foster and McGuinness.

    Secondly, the reason I used conservative is because there’s a huge disappointment about a lack of change, and to be frank that’s simply not just coming from the SDLP. I’m not accusing the parties at the top of being willingly conservative, but they are stuck in that situation anyway.

    If Sinn Féin and the DUP are radical, where is it? A lot of the energies seem to be expelled on reforming the Assembly departments and local government some of which passed by an SDLP minister. There have been the likes of “Transforming Your Care” but that has faced forces of both political and social conservatism. I may be a bit unfair on these two if I compare it with Mallon and Trimble who were administering in a far better economic environment, even when the SDLP held Social Development it was a better economic environment.

    It’s just as easy to criticize the DUP and Sinn Féin as it is Fine Gael and Irish Labour. None of these parties are really reaching the standards they want to be. Being “conservative” is not all bad, Freezing Tuition fees, Freezing Rates, Ring-fencing health provision against rising medical inflation, stopping water rates. I actually will praise Sinn Féin and the DUP on their conservatism here. Are rival parties going to do the same thing? I don’t hear Sinn Féin making points about the fiscal space they have to operate in the North, so is it disinterest, will it come up in the Assembly elections?

    Thirdly, when it comes to the matter of winning votes, I know how hard they are to get, I’ve been on campaigns, I’ve heard the complaints not just directed at the SDLP but politicians in general.
    A lot of the major energy it seems in parties seem to focus on the election and conference seasons. It’s not exactly true of party grassroots for all parties are canvassing and activism all the time.

    I joined the SDLP because of the Autism Bill, it gave people with Kanner Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome a fighting chance in employment legislation. It’s not a middle class welfare issue, it’s an equality issue. Do I wish there were more reforms coming from my party? Yes I do.

    There’s an SDLP conference in March, so we will see if this party does want to bring about changes. I didn’t want to join a party that did nothing. It should present alternative budgets, the DUP presented them in government, government or opposition the SDLP hasn’t done anything like that since Margaret Ritchie was in charge. It should work as hard at working with the UUP as Sinn Féin seem to do with the DUP, It should follow on from the work setting up Cross Border Bodies like InterTradeIreland to ensure cross border economics is not merely confined to infrastructure investments and European Funding to benefit from networking with the Republic’s growing economy.

    I don’t work in SDLP policy, it’s not my paid grade but I will at branch level be trying to push through amendments to put these issues at branch level if I can. I’m happy enough to try and put policies forward that may increase votes than cynically wait for things to change by complaining about things.

    On the matter of the intellectuals, I don’t see politics being a major intellectual pursuit from my point of view. Across the board I would say a lot of the politicians we have have a high educational record, more so in the younger generations, even if they don’t have much of an academic background educationally, they’re surrounded with enough researchers and experts to present their case these days.

    But I feel people don’t vote for intellectuals, they vote on the basis of perceived competence and the support of the SDLP gets comes from voter’s perception of their delivery not of their own political analysis, no matter what they may think, voters generally don’t want an interpreter.

  • Gaygael

    Which part of their ‘act’ do you think the greens are missing? I am genuinely curious.
    I’m a green candidate, and working hard to build my local group and raise profile of our issues.

  • Kev Hughes

    TLDR, send an abridged version.

    Also, as I suspected, your pride has been hurt as I was right on the money.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Blah, Blah, Blah … the SDLP and Fine Gael are the only Irish conservative middle class parties is a lie. Politics to me seems like a middle class pursuit, increasingly in Derry, I get from the doorsteps is that Sinn Féin is just another SDLP.

    The issues facing the SDLP are ones facing every other political movement in Northern Ireland. Turnout is stagnant and it’s difficult for anyone to produce a change, even the two major parties.
    I might be wrong but I feel, stagnation in turnout does drive political conservatism that we get.

    The charge you made was that the SDLP should join Fine Gael because they’re “conservative and pretty middle-class”. I simply reversed that and said why should Fine Gael join Sinn Féin on the same basis. Average industrial wage is middle class, salaries in the Republic are higher and so is the AIW.

    I’m not a politician but in my view most people who go into politics, including Sinn Féin and many of the left wing groups in Ireland are from the middle class. I’ve worked in both administrations and I’ve always earned below the average.

    This does date a little from the fact politics at local government level was a semi-professional occupation under direct rule and in the Republic it still is at times. It would’ve been even more elitist without the Civil Rights Movement.Pretty much the working classes were left in a don’t give up your day job position if they saved up to run independently, and the unemployed are as you were in that they were heavily reliant on outside support.

    I really have no objections to widening political opportunity, I joined a party on the basis of legislation that would give opportunity. You can call it dying off, you can criticize a few words, you can complain about a party, politician or myself getting on your own nerves, but insults and criticisms aren’t going to change the world.

    One change that might help bring about that change is to get rid of the deposit system like the Republic of Ireland has, and use 30 constituency signatures on the basis to stand.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The act is the “Instantaneous success” act. There’s no formula for instantaneous success, only hard work like you are pointing out. I think it shows as much contempt for your party as it does for mine. This is between candidates and the electorate, not a simply party vs. party issue.

    If he cared about the success of the Greens or NI Labour, why doesn’t he join them?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I made the effort to address your unabridged comments 5 hours ago. If you don’t want to return the favour, that’s good for me, assume what you want to.

  • Kev Hughes

    You wrote an essay.

    I don’t know, nor care, what your background is. What I do know is that you are following the old legal maxim of ‘why say something in a word when a 1,000 will do.’

  • Kevin Breslin

    I tell you what. Out of my own generosity if it did go over 1000 words I’ll cut it down to at most 999.

  • Kev Hughes

    Oh lord, another essay.

    OK, let’s look at your response, shall we.

    ‘Blah, Blah, Blah … the SDLP and Fine Gael are the only Irish conservative middle class parties is a lie.’ – Point to me where I said this.

    ‘Politics to me seems like a middle class pursuit, increasingly in Derry, I get from the doorsteps is that Sinn Féin is just another SDLP.’ – good for you, I would disagree on it being a middle class pursuit, my mother canvasses quite a bit along with others in the family all across the political spectrum.

    ‘The issues facing the SDLP are ones facing every other political movement in Northern Ireland.’ – only to a certain extent.

    ‘Turnout is stagnant and it’s difficult for anyone to produce a change, even the two major parties.’ – oh look here, something I agree with!

    ‘I might be wrong but I feel, stagnation in turnout does drive political conservatism that we get.’ – depends on your definition of political conservatism.

    ‘The charge you made was that the SDLP should join Fine Gael because they’re “conservative and pretty middle-class”. I simply reversed that and said why should Fine Gael join Sinn Féin on the same basis.’ – because the latter wouldn’t really be considered conservative and/or in the main middle class. That’s kind of the problem that the shinners face in growing their vote. But sure, what would I know?

    ‘Average industrial wage is middle class, salaries in the Republic are higher and so is the AIW.’ – define ‘middle-class’. You’re actually going after the AIW? Wow. Are you sure the Dr McDonnell et al should do that what with their exceedingly large property portfolios? I’ve no problems with people owning property, but it comes across as a stupid political move on the part of SDLP members earning more than the AIW.

    ‘I’m not a politician but in my view most people who go into politics, including Sinn Féin and many of the left wing groups in Ireland are from the middle class. I’ve worked in both administrations and I’ve always earned below the average.’ – I’m genuinely sorry to hear you do earn less. I’ve no idea what you do but I hope it gets you to where you want.

    ‘This does date a little from the fact politics at local government level was a semi-professional occupation under direct rule and in the Republic it still is at times. It would’ve been even more elitist without the Civil Rights Movement.Pretty much the working classes were left in a don’t give up your day job position if they saved up to run independently, and the unemployed are as you were in that they were heavily reliant on outside support.’ – You’re going over a point way too much. Honestly, this is why you got a TLDR from me. It’s what Mick might call a challenge function, as in I’m challenging you to say this in less than 1,000 words per response as it’s tedious and doesn’t lend itself to the medium.

    ‘I really have no objections to widening political opportunity, I joined a party on the basis of legislation that would give opportunity. You can call it dying off, you can criticize a few words, you can complain about a party, politician or myself getting on your own nerves, but insults and criticisms aren’t going to change the world.’ – You’re right, I can do all of these things, such as stating what I see infront of my very own eyes. A party that is a pale shade of its former self and defines itself by what it isn’t. You even fell into this trap when your initial response was essentially “we’re not SF’.

    ‘One change that might help bring about that change is to get rid of the deposit system like the Republic of Ireland has, and use 30 constituency signatures on the basis to stand.’ – Great, nothing really to do with what we’re discussion but you have at it.

  • Kev Hughes

    You see, for someone who has a little bit of intelligence, you just feel this need to write essays. Have at it, no skin off my nose, but the phrase ‘the lady doth protest too much’ springs to mind and it’s what we would always assume with such lengthy responses.

    You think I’m being a right old c*** by pointing this out. Why? Well, you put all this effort into what you believe to be very well typed answer when in fact brevity would’ve been better and usually is.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Try Think, Listen, Discuss, Read for a new TLDR

    Politics is middle class profession in my opinion has been since direct rule, it was arguably more upper class under the NI parliament. The fact Sinn Féin are on the rise doesn’t change that, a lot of their members come from a middle class income bracket if they’re not already in it.

    Very few politicians or political candidates under 50 come from a bone fide working class background certainly less than what you get in the Republic.

    I suggest scrapping the deposit only system for the Assembly and local government elections and bringing in the Republic’s option of either deposit or multiple signatures from the registered electorate.

    Politics here is conservative, turnout’s stagnated, little legislation gets passed, apart from cuts from Westminster not much changes. Only major economic change in my view delivered from the Assembly is the social investment fund and it’s not delivering.

    Sometimes conservationism’s seen as a good thing when it comes to freezing tuition fees, freezing council rates bills, ring fencing health spending. We’re not seeing changes to stimulate the economy or boost integration and cohesion. That type of conservatism cannot and should not go without criticism.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘Try Think, Listen, Discuss, Read for a new TLDR’ – no.

    Let’s look at where you’ve taken us, shall we?

    I raised the point that the SDLP should, if the went south, join forces with FG as you’re kind of the same conservative folks and ‘middle class’, the latter term primarily used as an insult seeing as you’d imagine the SDLP would have a view on working class voters.

    You’ve wrote one thesis after another of lots of things, talking about being middle class, deposits for parties, the system, how SF are fascists, etc etc.

    I shouldn’t have wrote TLDR about your pieces, more TLSNR

  • Kevin Breslin

    You got me wrong, I’m not calling Sinn Féin fascists, anyone who can go before an electorate and gain a mandate is not a fascist. Likewise Fine Gael. People planting bombs in the street expecting it’s going to bundle people into supporting a new nation is fascism in my mind. I don’t care what income bracket they come from, you can’t “seize power” that way.

  • Dev32

    I think a huge amount of damage was done to the SDLP during the extended tenure of Alisdair Mc Donnell. Had new blood grabbed the reins after the last election, the results might not have been so bad.