Any SDLP revival must be true to its origins as ‘a broad church’…?

Very useful overview of where the SDLP finds itself just now from Suzanne Breen. I’d quibble over the list of places where the SDLP might be endangered, but I think she’s nailed something important here:

Those critics who accuse the SDLP of betraying its traditional roots are wrong, because, from the very beginning, the party was a broad church.

When founder member Austin Currie moved into southern politics in 1989 it was to join the highly conservative and pro-establishment Fine Gael.

During the conflict, the SDLP succeeded simply by having clean hands. “We’re not Sinn Fein” was enough to ensure it stayed top dog within nationalism. The party has been far too slow in awakening from its smug sense of entitlement.

If it is to survive and prosper now, the SDLP must be brave and bold. I think that involves going into Opposition in the Assembly, as opposed to just sniping at Sinn Fein from within the Stormont clique

The breadth of its historical appeal is how the SDLP has survived as long as in the post-Belfast Agreement era without any visible political messaging worth talking about. And it will be key to the success of any putative revival.


, ,

  • willieric

    A nationalist party in Northern Ireland cannot lay claim to be a broad church.

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t like a journalist glossing over the SDLPs ‘clean pair of hands’ because it suggests ignorance about the complicated moral struggles at play – on one hand paramilitarism and on the other state wrongs.
    That said, I agree that any party must be relevant to people on the ground if it is not to wither on the vine which often involves risk taking. However in the circs of NI I do not believe that “going into opposition” is the silver bullet to revive a party’s fortunes. Gurning for Ireland in opposition is neither likely to produce proper scrutiny of government or solutions to problems. Better to concentrate on what can be done to make PS work better as it clearly is not.

    I also think that to be relevant and broaden appeal the SDLP is hamstrung as long as it appears to adhere to Catholic teaching on social/moral issues (gay marriage, FFA. etc).
    From outside (so I could be wrong on this) it also looks like someone other than a conservative Catholic would not be comfortable in the culture of the SDLP.

  • ted hagan

    I think Gerry Fitt, Paddy Devlin etc were much more focused on the socialist side of things at the onset but that seems to have been jettisoned as the years went on.

  • Gopher

    Very good post Granni. I don’t think either the UUP or the SDLP have looked at what the logistics of opposition actually means. The unilateral petition of concern the DUP have make those logistics easier for the UUP than the SDLP. Oppostion would involve the SDLP working with the UUP, Greens and possibly Alliance which for it to work they would have to withdraw their support for any SF petition of concern unless the opposition block was in agreement with it. I’m not sure the SDLP have considered that when they fly the opposition kite. Opposition will require a lot of give and take if it is to be effective and to give it gravatis there will have to be a first and deputy first opposition leader. Without a coalition of opposition 12 to 14 seats alone will achieve nothing.

  • Katyusha

    Of course it can. There are many factions within nationalism, after all.
    But taking the Republic into account, you could easily say that Sinn Fein are a broader church than the SDLP.

  • Nevin

    “During the conflict, the SDLP succeeded simply by having clean hands.”

    It also had the support of the three governments, including senior civil servants, and the Catholic Church; that support was steadily transferred from these key four ‘movers and shakers’ from the 1980s onwards to SF.

    In terms of constituency service and support for nationalists, SF is the go-to party, not the SDLP; some nationalists have even gone to the TUV when nationalist representative support was not forthcoming. The UUP has made some small moves on this front and has reaped benefits at the ballot box.

  • Msiegnaro

    The TUV, really?

  • Redstar

    For many of us who will never vote for them it’s because we look at their hands as maybe not that clean.

    Even though our community, including the Sdlp knew and complained bitterly during the conflict of the connections and information flow between Ruc/ UDR and loyalist paramilitaries- the Sdlp still came on our tv screens asking people in our community to give information to these discredited groups.
    I wonder how many of our community met their deaths at the hands of loyalist/ unionist murder gangs due to such info. I and others will never forgive the Sdlp for this.

  • Nevin

    You sound surprised! Desperate circumstances require desperate measures.

  • Nevin

    Sadly, the killings continue but all of the main parties at Stormont – and in the rest of these two islands – request that you provide information.

  • Redstar

    I understand that Nevin but this was a community being targeted by murder gangs specifically using links to these groupings – yet the Sdlp continued telling our community to assist them in their actions by giving info on their neighbours, friends relatives

  • chrisjones2

    There is a fundamental problem with political leadership. Many of the sheep – especially in NI – cannot cope with the new vision. Their feet are firmly in the past and the vista in front of them is dominated by their own mortality – exactly the same problem as shared by the UUP in Fermanagh / West Tyrone. Couple that with the facts that such a high % of those bothering to vote are over 65 and the quota needed to be elected is so low, its all a toxic brew that promotes (literally) dead-end politics

  • Lets not forget that there were those in “our” community ruling by fear, killing their own and then threating to kill those who went to the police. One was as bad as the other.

  • chrisjones2

    …but the reality for the two Governments was that they needed to ensure SF electoral success to bind them into the process so no matter what the Stoops did once they facilitated the nprocess they were signing up to their own near demise

  • chrisjones2

    ….they became very tweedy …… the party of lawyers, social workers , gentleman farmers and teachers

    Hardly radical

  • Redstar

    I don’t doubt that- so why assist any of the killers, in or out of uniform?

  • Nevin

    Redstar, we now have arrangements in place where loyalist and republican paramilitaries sit around the table with police officers and other public servants in charities and other organisations. This doesn’t inspire me with confidence. There will be the suspicion that paramilitaries will get the nod when officialdom seeks to maintain a public distance.

  • Redstar

    Couldn’t agree more with you Nevin

  • Nevin

    Official justice can be incredibly slow to non-existent so many folk will turn to paramilitaries as their first port of call.

  • Nevin

    CJ, the SDLP, rather like the UUP, would have been bit-part players in the machinations that included London, Dublin and Washington. Unsurprisingly, London’s and Dublin’s main focus would always be the protection of institutions.

  • Nevin

    CJ, you didn’t get where you are today without seeing strange visions. Can I suggest you put down Gfs cracked ‘looking glass’?

  • Msiegnaro

    What problem did the UUP have in Fermanagh and West Tyrone?

  • Dominic Hendron

    Is being Catholic not radical, prophetic even? Pope didn’t take the name Francis for nothing

  • Not everyone in the uniform was a killer, or did they conspire with loyalists. However all those out of uniform where into intimidation, murder and extortion

  • Msiegnaro

    I am but I’m sure it will not transfer into votes.

  • Croiteir

    It is beyond belief that anyone can consider that the SDLP are a party for liberal Catholics never mind conservative or traditional Catholics

  • Nevin

    BJ, is this reply intended for Redstar?

  • Redstar

    so when the Sdlp were telling their community to give info to these groups- how did they know which Info would be used by the baddies in uniform and which by the goodies in uniform?

  • Granni Trixie

    Er no.
    And Is Francis not a saint relevant with wee animals ….or birds.. …as opposed to relevant to actual people?

  • Barneyt

    Yep. About right

  • Barneyt

    He’s not the only one Nevin. It would be some protest vote. If there is scope fo vote for the TUV, it will be in select areas, areas that perhaps offer many other alternatives, such as PUP, Alliance. Seems like an odd switch.

  • Croiteir

    Er no

  • Nevin

    Barney (and Msiegnaro), I was referring to constituency service, not vote. It’s possible that the support might be rewarded at the ballot box but I’m only thinking of a small number of instances.

  • Barneyt

    For years the SDLP was the only political outlet for Irish Nationalists in the north. I suspect they received many votes from Republicans who could not abstain or indeed bring themselves to vote for the Republican clubs and later manifestations. My default they a catchment. With this I suspect came complacency.

    Their time is up or at least the clock is ticking as 2019 approaches and another centre or right of centre NationalistRepublican party (FF) takes stage (assuming it will transpire). In the short term I would advise them to work harder on their new republican narrative, if not to rehearse for their eventual consumption.

    The SDLP will get votes from those more concerned about opposing SF that they are about the catholic conservative aspects of the SDLP. There are many out there who are happy to think of the SDLP as Socialist leaning NI type labour party and they are content to overlook their position on womens rights and marriage equality. Anyone with an ounce of wit that has left of centreall Ireland ambitions with total equality should move towards other Nationalistrepublican parties, but many cannot allow themselves to transition to SF. They just wont even if it means that politically they are a good fit.

    In my view their followers are a confused mixed bag who sufficiently feel Irish by ticking their SDLP box and a collective made up of genuine conservative catholics. I cant see that they have the might or the time now to reinvent themselves and appeal to a more modern and younger voter that are not as constrained by the SF past. They also do not have a southern voice that resonates northwards on such matters…like Mary Lou.

  • Dominic Hendron

    He’s also the man to whom God said, “Rebuild my Church which lies in ruins”

  • ted hagan

    Would it be possible to have a new, non-aligned left of centre party that was able to take up with equal resolve issues involving nationalists and loyalists and at the same time wipe out Alliance and steal votes from the SDLP and Ulster Unionist parties and even, dare I say it, pick up some of the younger, more enlightened SF supporters? Sorry, I’m dreaming again.

  • Sharpie

    Only with a party machinery on the ground will this happen – that is why Sinn Fein are the most successful party – locally they are on top of every agenda. None of the other parties have learned this. People think it is complacency that has gotten SF where they are – I am not an SF person but there is no doubt they have invested most by far in local activism.

    Middle class people don’t like local politics. They like to take an intellectual consideration of the merits of the party position. They see politics as distasteful and are persuaded by arms length engagement – hearing them being clever on Nolan or Good Morning radio or some feature in Agenda. Politicians are a bit like lawyers – you don’t really notice them until you need them and when you need them, they have to be fit and able to help.

    There is a dance to be danced between the party acting at the national level and at the local level. SDLP have two left feet!

  • Dominic Hendron

    What exactly is radical or progressive about putting a rainbow flag on a 2000 year old institution (marriage) that is shipwrecked, and calling it equality.

  • murdockp

    I would Hardly call left wing socialism a broad church

  • murdockp

    A left wing nationalist party cannot even claim to represent a broad church in the nationalist community if the vote of economic emigrants was to be taken into account.

  • Alan N/Ards


    Is your definition of a socialist as someone who supports gay marriage and abortion on demand? Or do you have to be a nationalist/republican to be one?

    I’m pro union, yet there is good chance that I will vote SDLP no 1 at the next election because of their brand of socialism.

  • eamoncorbett

    Yes indeed Ted, but there exists a right wing Catholic element who espouse conservative morality along with left of centre political philosophy.

  • ted hagan

    The SDLP consistently condemned the UDR and sought reform of it. It was never happy with it. Stop trying to rewrite history. The party was duty bound to call for information about killings.

  • SDLP supporter

    An article from a ‘journalist’ who, nearly a decade ago proclaimed “the SDLP is finished” and who is an inveterate hater of the SDLP, and quite a few other things and people as well. Well, we’re still here.
    In relation to matters mentioned, SDLP policy (which I voted for) is in favour of gay marriage, though there are some people who dissent from the party position, but who accept it as party policy. I think that a lot of the pro-choice and pro-life zealots are alike in their monomaniacal obsession on abortion. And I wonder how NILRC ‘Leader’, Kathryn Johnston knows who collects outside Catholic Churches, given that she has probably never been near one in her life.
    I’ve made these points before and I’ll make them again:
    1. Since when did ‘pro-choice’ become a cornerstone tenet, a touchstone, of social democracy? It certainly wasn’t advocated by Attlee, Benn, or Gerry Fitt or Paddy Devlin. Being pro-choice side lines people like myself who are Christian socialists, who would hold broadly similar views about abortion, and many of those who have played such a vital role in the Left cause. People like Jacques Delors, Tony Benn, Dorothy Day, Hugo Chavez, Eugene Debs, RH Tawney, Donald Soper, etc. Even Marie Stopes herself, though I don’t think she counts as ‘Left’.
    2. I’m not someone who cowers with fear at the thought of a belt from some bishop’s crozier, I think the pro-choice people completely discount and disrespect the fact that people like myself, after informing ourselves as lay people with medical and social evidence, genuinely and sincerely believe that life begins at conception, and that there are two lives involved. It’s not just a matter of ‘a cluster of cells’, which we all are. That said, FFA is one that causes me real difficulties and I don’t know what the ethical answer to that matter is.
    3. I’ve already pointed out the real problems with conception from alleged rape. Abortions have to be carried out by 24 weeks. In the case of alleged rape within that twenty four week period a woman who becomes pregnant, who alleges rape, who presses charges against a man who, if he denies it, is arraigned for trial by jury on a most serious charge that carries a very long sentence and, if he has found guilty, might exercise the right of appeal? And all this happens within twenty four weeks from conception in NI courts? It’s absurd. NI would become even more of a Nirvana for lawyers than it is and the legal aid budget would increase by quintillions.

  • chrisjones2

    So she hates the Stoops and SF …indeed she doesn’t seem to fawn on anyone ….perhaps that is because shes impartial

  • chrisjones2

    …start with the age profile of their supporters

  • Sherdy

    When Austin Currie moved to southern politics it was to avoid the fallout from the weekly fines he, as a Stormont minister, imposed on the rent and rates strikers at the time, many of whom had been SDLP supporters.

  • SDLP supporter

    Someone who hates everybody could be classified as a misanthrope or even a sociopath. IIRC Ms. Breen was a great admirer of Bob McCartney. She also was a big fan of Gerry Adams until Gerry omitted to tell her in 1994 that the Provos were going on ceasefire. Then she turned against him big time.

  • SDLP supporter

    You’re having a laugh, aren’t you, Nevin? You obviously haven’t read much in the available literature about the relationships the SDLP had with people like Charles Haughey (who hated Hume), Conor Cruise O’Brien, Brian Lenihan Snr, Mary Harney and Bertie Ahern, all of whom, to a greater or less extent, were far from being friendly disposed to the SDLP. Hume and Cardinal O Fiaich disliked each other. Naturally, the SDLP had few friends within British governments of either complexion (but Conservative ministers like Whitelaw and Hurd were much brighter than their Labour contemporaries and were people who could make and keep deals) and Hume and Mallon cultivated good relations with influential civil servants like Sir Robert Armstrong and Sir David Goodall. The 30 year papers being released now show that local mandarins-like Sir Kenneth Bloomfield-who did not have much influence but were patronising to the SDLP and thought pre-1985 and pre-1998 that Hume and the SDLP were busted flushes. How wrong they were.

  • SDLP supporter

    Granni, the SDLP official policy is to support gay marriage. It was the SDLP who proposed the motion in the Assembly.

  • SDLP supporter

    What an inane generalisation! I’ve never come across a ‘gentleman farmer’ in the SDLP, the only two lawyers I can think of are Alban (now retired) and Alex. As a general rule, NI is such a closed society that ‘professionals’ don’t get involved in politics-too grubby and you might lose business. Oh, and Clement Attlee, the exemplar of a highly successful democratic socialist, was a social worker. So your point is?

  • Declan Doyle

    Most of the commentators who sneer at the SDLP seem to want nothing more than the party to either implode or sacrifice their nationalist and social principles or both as the case maybe. The SDLP helped to steer the ship when the sea around them was crushing lives and drowning hope, there is no ‘sense of entitlement’, there simply is a party who has stuck to its principles struggling to find a place in a crowded field.

    For years the UUP have struggled to win back the space they once occupied from the DUP – fruitlessly. Now the UUP have inched left (ish) and are starting to appeal to progressive Unionists and it looks like they might get paid for it in the upcoming elections. The UUP have accepted that the DUP are satisfying conservative Unionist demand. The TUV took the extreme branch so all that was left for the UUP was to move into a more progressive mode; which they have done.

    The SDLP however are stuck, they cant move further left than Sinn fein who are growing in the south and are satisfying handsomely any and all thirst for left of centre politics on the Island. They cant move right either without abandoning their most basic principles. All this nonsense about crafting a viable message and becoming relevant again is just balderdash, psuedo political intelligence with no real meaning. The SDLP have a very clear message and always have done, so whats the problem?

    On policy there is no problem (other than in-party hassle which effects all political families). The party has a product to sell and it is a good product. The problem is the people and their obession with Sinn Fein. The party can stand alone on its record and its principles. Ignore Sinn fein and get on with developing an SDLP blueprint for Irish Unity. Don’t be afraid to stand up to Unionists anti-Irish rants, be loud and be public. Organize in Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan for starters before Fianna Fail organize in the North. Ditch the dead-wood self interested moaners who constantly bicker and refuse to put the party first before selfish interest. Give your best people some media training and get them on the airwaves. Stop talking about the wonder of the GFA, nobody is listening.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Absolutely agree with this. The SDLP can’t define itself by comparing itself to Sinn Fein and looking for a niche. SDLP voters will only vote for the party if they see the integrity that inspired so many to vote in the past. The SDLP created problems for itself by trying to move and shift it’s position to find this niche in the past. It backfires.

    The SDLP do have a great product. Their policies are policies that they can sell with conviction. They’ve had to work on bring in a new breed to the party though. People may say the changes are in style rather than substance but it’s style that they needed to change most. Style and organization. They are well progressed in addressing both.

  • chrisjones2

    “there is no ‘sense of entitlement’,”

    “The problem is the people and their obession with Sinn Fein. ”

    What more can I say?

  • chrisjones2

    You characterised it as hate. Shes just doing her job of challenging your party and you are just attacking the messenger as you dont like the message

  • chrisjones2

    I agree…..but they allowed themselves to be marginalised

  • Nevin

    Bit-part players may have influence but they can’t control events, CJ.

  • Reader

    How does that work? The Loyalists hardly needed intelligence to target random Catholics, which is basically what they did. So do you have actual examples where they used intelligence information to target non-random nationalists?

  • Granni Trixie

    then I stand corrected, sorry.

  • Lionel Hutz

    On the prospects for any revival in the fortunes of the SDLP, it’s clear to me that the momentum must start from within the party. The Northern Ireland media don’t have the ability to sense a shift in the narrative about the fortunes of any party. I’m not old enough to remember a time when Sinn Fein and the DUP weren’t either rising electorally or on top (I’m 30) but it seems to me that the narrative follows the results and not the other way around. I’ve seen some say that the party need a new air campaign to change things. It’s not gonna happen.

    Consider the UUP. When Nesbitt became leader it was a very difficult initial period. He had to confront some old grandees with odd views to put it lightly resulting in highly visible spats. He then lost liberal members after agreeing unity candidates and the UUP was much smaller in the assembly. And he sounded frankly weak on the many interviews he gave any chance he could find a microphone. He clung tightly to thr DUP lurching if anything to the right.

    And yet something else was happening. Clearly he brought a seen of focus to the party’s ground game and the party’s problematic decision on unity candidates paid off with an MP. And I suspect the second MP is anomalous and they had a good candidate against poor opposition. That’s all it has taken for the UUP to be seen as in recovery. The media tries to shape the narrative around the results. So we are told Mike has moved the party to being more liberal….hmmmmmm…..OK, if you say so. And generally he’s being talked about as someone who is moving quite well through some tricky social issues as and when they arise.

    Anyway. If there is going to be an SDLP revival starting now, then will need to come back with more seats than they have. Then and only then the narrative will shift. It won’t be the other way around. I think they can do that. Although Foyle and Upper Bann are in danger, the real danger being the latter I think, they have one or two prospects for additional seats. They should win FST and Newry Armagh is really not beyond them in my view. If they do that and increase their vote in other areas even without a seat , that will be interpreted as the SDLP doing something better than they were and the media will try to find ways of explaining that.

    The ground campaign is much stronger. In my own west Tyrone, I’ve never seen the SDLP as visible as they are. That’s both in terms of the posters bejng very prominent and I’ve seen for the first time lots of SDLP canvassers in the Omagh area. Never seen that before. Even the nastiness with the split in the constituency can have a positive side effect in that many people will read what’s happened as the SDLP pushing forward a young candidate and the old guard got frustrated. It helps that McCrossan is a very stron candidate. The party will increase their vote in Tyrone certainly beyond the 2011 level. It will be very interesting to watch. If they do that, hold Foyle and win FST….the SDLP being regrown from the west….

  • Nevin

    “You’re having a laugh, aren’t you, Nevin?”

    Just providing a personal assessment, supporter. Are Ken Bloomfield’s opinions of John and the SDLP online? Can you tell me if John was at that meeting in or near Derry on November 5, 1993, when Douglas Hurd, the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and MI6 boss met ‘Martin and Mitchel’?

  • kensei

    I think it is fundamentally wrong in its analysis. The SDLP needs to chose a direction. it has tried being all things to all men and it has a confused lack of direction.

    What is the SDLP for? I have no good answer, beyond “not SF”. If it wants to be a Nationalist Party, then the idea of northern parties isolated from the South as any kind of driver to unity has been tested and rejected. That era should be over – and if the SDLP wants to compete on these grounds, it should be making overtures to FF.

    Is it a left wing party? Then the SDLP should make the national question a matter of conscience and develop policies that appeal across the religious divide. I mean, even PBP has said it won’t designate nationalist. PBP probably have the far left, but that is limited ground anyway. potentially the SDLP could rebrand as Labour and link with Labour in the Republic and the UK – attend both conferences, state they’ll accept Labour whip based on jurisdiction etc.

    Is it a party for doctors and lawyers and the generally well to do? Then it needs to tailor policies to their concerns. Etc etc etc.

    All of those choices means almost certainly alienating other parts of their vote. But once they have a core mission, they can work on widening back out – developing policies and candidates and picking issues that get them noticed. Until they do that they are slowly dying though, and I welcome the point when FF, PBP and the rest walk over their corpse. I used to think their crapness was really hurting Nationalism. it is, but it’s worse. It’s hurting everyone.

  • SDLP supporter

    Nevin, know nothing about the Derry meeting. Re Bloomfield, see this:

    from a 1984 confidential file released under the thirty year rule.

    For my money, Bloomfield was and is a pompous old git and, beneath the genial exterior, a very hard-line unionist. He and his wife are an ever-present at every bloody ‘high level’ reception and every time I saw him I got an irresistible urge to puke over the canapes, so I stopped going.

    Bloomfield was reporting on the Airlie House talks. This from the report and Bloomfield’s direct quotes:

    “Three days exposure to Peter Robinson amply articulated what a forceful, articulate and crafty politician he is.”

    He contrasted the now First Minister’s performance with that of SDLP representatives at the conference and particularly the party leader, John Hume.

    “John Hume is normally in his element in the United States, where he is widely regarded as occupying a position somewhere between Charles Stewart Parnell and Mother Teresa.

    He added that the SDLP leader relied on texts from a recent report of the New Ireland Forum, which involved the Dublin parties and the SDLP,

    “as if they had been handed down on tablets of stone”.

    In the face of this pressure,

    “Hume took refuge in unconvincing ambiguity. According to Bloomfield, unionists had put the SDLP leader

    “under very skilful and sustained pressure”

    to engage in talks on an internal solution to the Northern Ireland problem,

    “even to the extent of throwing out a lifeline of willingness to recognise some kind of relevant interests on the part of the Irish Republic”

    .”On this occasion, he gave a chilling impression of political bankruptcy, rather like a man who has lost a fortune by backing a particular number consistently at the roulette table and continues to stare at that number even though he no longer has a stake to play.”‘Unconvincing ambiguity’.

    A hundred years from now, people will say ‘Thank God’ that a man like John Hume lived. They will forget that Ken Bloomfield ever existed.

  • chrisjones2

    The Conservatives?

  • chrisjones2

    Initially they had the opportunity to shape events – they were essential to kick start the process. Then they were dumped by Tony and Betie in favour of Gerry and Big Ian. They were out manouvred

  • submariner


  • SDLP supporter

    Don’t know you, Alan, but thank you, and would like to have a chat in person some time.

  • Granni Trixie

    I disagree with your analysis of
    UUP as “progressive unionist”. Their spokespersons still trying to appeal to moderates and extremists,at the same time. Their lack of consistency is confusing.

    My heart sank when Nesbitt talk about wanting education ministry as proposals in their manifesto would be even more disastrous than over last five years.

  • Dominic Hendron

    It’s individuals that matter more than parties, Gerry Fit had a huge personal vote as did John Hume and Ian Paisley. In more recent times Niomai Long has impressed voters. Column Eastwood is young,fresh, energetic and eager for the challenge. He is also offering a new way forward when people are fed up with the politics being offered by SF/DUP

  • tmitch57

    “Never mistake a vision for a mirage .”

    Don’t you really mean “Never mistake a mirage for a vision.”?

  • Declan Doyle

    Yes of course they still have chewing gum on their pants but my overall point is that they have shifted enough for it to appear at least that their is open water between them and the DUP.

  • Johnny Magnum

    The elephant in the room here is that the SDLP are and never were a “Nationalist” party. For instance their name, image and policies barely differentiate them from the Alliance.

  • Johnny Magnum

    The only thing keeping the SDLP ship from sinking is Unionist transfer votes.

  • Johnny Magnum

    So tell me what did the SDLP do or organise for the recent 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising?

  • Teddybear

    The Social Democrat and Labour Party

    That’s the full name of the party but it’s as ‘social democratic and labour’as the Japanese Liberal Democrats are like Liberal Democrats of England.

    The SDLP was big in its hey day because :
    1. Sinn Fein didn’t contest elections in the 70s
    2. SDLP was ‘we are not the IRA’ party

    Roll on to the the 80s when SF got its electoral act together. Ever since the SDLP block of dull dusty cheddar has been steadily nibbled at by the hungry mouse of SF

    The SDLP don’t inspire. They’re good people but uninspiring. They will lose 3-4 seats. In 2019 about 1 or 2 more until they will wind up.

    I give them 10 years max

  • Johnny Magnum

    In crude terms people who vote SDLP are Catholics who don’t want a United Ireland. Brutal but true.

  • Brendan Heading

    Since when did ‘pro-choice’ become a cornerstone tenet, a touchstone, of social democracy?

    Throughout Europe and the United States in the course of the past three or four decades.

    It certainly wasn’t advocated by Attlee, Benn, or Gerry Fitt or Paddy Devlin.

    “social democracy” is not a concept that was defined between 1945 and the 1970s when these men (the absence of women is notable in the list – Barbara Castle ?) were at their peak. It has moved on, and most – but not all – social democrats and liberals respect some kind of abortion rights provision to a greater or lesser extent.

    What marks the SDLP out on this matter is the fact that the party whips on the issue. Party members or activists who wish to be part of the modern social democratic movement on this question are expressly denied that right. This is a position that is not at all idiomatic of a party describing itself as of the progressive left.

  • SDLP supporter

    Brendan, for me social democracy and democratic socialism are interchangeable, so social democracy is not just a WW2 construct, as you suggest. Social democracy’s origins I would trace to the late 19th century.
    I take your point on the paucity of women on the list-though I did mention Dorothy Day-but there would have been a notable absence of women into any list of liberals, conservatives, social democrats, etc for the same period.

    You imply the blanket absence of ‘abortion rights’ in NI which is not entirely the case. I haven’t got the exact wording to hand, but the legislation in NI permits abortion when it is carried out in good faith for the purpose of preserving the life of the mother and where the continuation of the pregnancy would have a permanent or long-term adverse affect on the physical or mental health of the mother.
    There has been a lot of judicial obiter dicta, the DHSSP guidelines were recently issued (and has met with a muted response) and the working group established by Minister Hamilton will report within months, so I think it is best to wait to see what consensus, if any, is reached.
    You say that the SDLP MLAs/MPs are whipped on the matter, and I believe so they are, though I am sure there are some SDLP members who have their private pro-choice views to a greater or less degree, which they are entitled to hold. This is not unusual in a political party and there is stuff in the various SDLP policy platforms with which I disagree, but I accept the party line. Medical professionals are rightly seeking for clarity and I pray that the guidelines and the outcome of the working group will de-toxify the whole situation.
    I, like many others, was brought up in a milieu where it was it was right and glorious to die for Mother Ireland and, in our own time and long before, a lot of people took that to mean that it was all right to kill for Ireland. One distinguishing feature of the SDLP is that it is against killing for any purpose and this is why the debate is particularly sharp in NI.
    I don’t want to misrepresent Sinn Fein, whom I politically oppose but, since their paramilitary wing killed living people outside the womb for decades ‘for Ireland’, I don’t see how in principle they would be against killing inside the womb.
    I note that no-one has challenged my opinion on life beginning at conception or the sheer impracticability of abortions on the grounds of alleged rape. Advances in medical science have pushed the question of viability further back, which is why Fatal Foetal Abnormality generates such conflicting emotions. I was as startled as anyone when Professor James Dornan said on television that FFA was not in any textbook.
    You debate intelligently, Brendan (unlike some others who responded and whom I have no wish to engage with), and you may have guessed who I am. You suggested a while ago that I perhaps tended to want to keep women in an inferior position. Two of the women in my life have played a prominent part in SDLP and no-one would suggest they are not ‘strong women’.
    I suggest that those seeking the widening of ‘abortion rights’ in western society may actually be on the wrong side of history. The multifaceted demographic time bomb is already seriously affecting countries like Japan, China, Russia, Italy and Portugal.

  • Kev Hughes

    UUP as ‘moderates’?

    If it were anywhere else and it had 50 years uninterrupted rule by one party with little chance for change we’d call the country and that party a banana republic and a malign influence respectively.

    I always bare that in mind when I think of the UUP and remember how tame the sdlp’s supporters actually are.

  • Giorria

    That old dig…sigh….He went south 1989 . The issue you mention is the controversial 25p admin charge for rent striking that he announced as housing minister in the Sunningdale Executive in 1974. A fee that was postponed with the lack of progress on internment and detention and then the fall of sunningdale. Sometimes in politics you have to take a gamble but when you lose everyone holds it against you. A good example of that was Clegg doing a u turn on tuition fees to get the holy grail of single transferable vote referendum. If the UK had agreed to STF then I am pretty sure the conservatives would not be in power and clegg would have been able to get the tuition fees removed. Also, it’s a bit disingenuous to not point out how Austin’s wife had previously suffered a terrible loyalist attack and how they also endured threats and attacks at their home from the other side too. He was very likely trying to get away from that and also gaining influence and insight into southern politics for the SDLP. Funny enough looks like Gerry Adams is the only northern politician since Austin to have become a TD. (Not counting De Velara’s stint as MP for South Down).

  • Lionel Hutz

    I would agree that abortion became a social democratic touchstone issue in the 60s and 70s. Or maybe broader than that it became a liberal touchstone issue at that time.

    But I also think that was in the context of the time. That it was a time when women were finally moving towards something close to equality. Not entirely there yet but that was the time when great strides were made. And control over reproduction was seen as an important element of that. I think that time has demonstrated that abortion is not so important in that narrative as it was claimed to be. Sure you can argue very well that women have not yet reached equal status. There’s a way to go yet. But we are remarkably close in N.I.

    So I think abortion as a feminist touchstone issue will fall away somewhat. It’s not an imperative though it’s desirable in the eyes of many.

    I get suspicious of group think. I don’t get my politics from a manual that says that if you believe x you must believe y.

    Abortion is for me the single most ethically and moral complex issue in politics and law. I like wrestling with the ethical dilemmas in legal issues. And abortion is the one subject I’ve found most difficult to reconcile. For me, this is because whether you prioritise the desire for the law to preserve life or to preserve the individual autonomy of the woman, you end up with the ugly outworking of that priority in the criminalization of women or the termination of perfectly healthy life respectively. Ive come to the view that i don’t think there is a fair resolution of the abortion issue. The pro choice position is quieter in that the ugly outworking need not come to public view. But my sense is that it is morally more destructive.

    Ultimately I think that the best evidence shows that there is life in unborn child, and I can’t believe it is appropriate to subject the right to life to the views or choice of another, even if it is the would be mother. The right to life is one of those few unqualified rights.

    Even though the equalisation in article 8 of the Irish constitution is totally wrong, I admire the fact that Ireland tackled the question of when life begins. The Strasborg Court doesn’t have a history of being resolute on the right to life. It only outlawed the death penalty when all countries did so already as far as I know.

    So anyway, having concluded that the right to life exists in the embryo, I cannot think it is right to allow open access to abortion.

    I recognise that that means that I support a policy that criminalizes women in sometimes desperate situations. Whether you believe me or not, that’s something I find distressing and gut wrenching. But I won’t avert my eyes from it. It’s customary for politicians of a pro life stance to fudge that issue including the SDLP leader simply stating that he wants to put his arm around the woman. I don’t doubt that. But at the same time, the criminalization of women IS the ugly outworking. I may not like it, but I would accept it and argue for it.

  • Giorria

    The Green Party ?

  • Barneyt

    Its been a while since the SDLP has been associated with any form of socialism. They are surely social democrats and have shunned the socialist label. Would you not agree that the SDLP are, these days, better described as Christian Democrats?

  • Newman

    As a matter of consistency and principle if life begins at conception and a child with FFA is alive for a varying length of time at birth, how is that different to a child with a disability or indeed any child if one believes in the sanctity and dignity of all human life.The Judge held that there was nothing to weigh in the balance in cases of FFA. That is only correct if one embraces a utilitarian worldview that believes that one must live for period of time before one is imbued with the requisite level of humanity.Why is is that life of a few hours weeks or days is not life that society wishes to respect. Fundamentally once you admit to exceptions the principle is lost

  • Declan Doyle

    Well of course when one looks at the term ‘moderate’ in the context of more normal polities, one would not be inclined to use it in relation to any Unionist party. But compared to the DUP, TUV, UKIP – the UUP seem to be softening their tone and attitude somewhat and this might find a home with moderate Unionists fed up of the religious fundamentalism which has been such a malign influence over the years.

  • Kev Hughes

    Sorry, but for me, the use of ‘moderate’ in this instance is akin to when we hear discussions lumping the Saudi or Jordanian regimes together and saying they’re ‘moderate’ influences in the middle east; clearly a nonsense there.

  • Declan Doyle

    the clue then is in your use ‘for me’.

  • Kev Hughes

    And? It is me posting this after all and it doesn’t actually make what I say incorrect. Or are we avoiding commenting on the premise raised?