Analysis: Are the SDLP the new DUP..?

AS the latest round of political talks to restore devolution fall apart acrimoniously, the parties begin the blame game. SDLP and Sinn Fein fingers are pointing at the DUP, who have returned the favour

  • john

    Very good from the SDLP. It seems that they’ve turned a corner recently and are beginning to call things right again. They’ve clearly wrongfooted Sinn Fein this time

  • peteb

    Arguing over semantics seems to take up most of your first half-dozen paragraphs, Gonzo (no offense intended).. and you should really have given your answer to your headline “Analysis” question.

    But look at the whole ‘process’ in the round.. with the observation you have made on the adoption of better PR by the DUP.

    The ‘blame game’ has now, quite clearly, become the ‘avoid the blame’ game.. and it hasn’t just started, it’s been ongoing for most, if not all of this summer. It involves, above all, appearing to be conciliatory – looking like you want to deal has been the objective of virtually every statement put out by the DUP and Sinn F

  • Keith M

    The SDLP have become a rather sad bunch of self deluding losers (based on the recent Euro elections). They are bit part players who haven’t realised they’ve played their scene and the leads have now taken centre stage.

    The SDLP were quite prepared to watch the Belfast Agreement being dismantled by allowing the expressly stated deadline for decommissioning pass without taking sanctions on the paramilitary linked parties and by the high jinx which allowed Mallon regain the DFM position after his resignation stunt went so badly wrong.

    A party which is racing the APNI and the UUP into oblivion cannot and I firmly believe will not stop a new arrangement which suits the DUP and SF, assuming one can be found.

    If the crux of the current impasse is accountability then you can bet that the governments will call the bluffs of the DUP and SF and come up with something which provides cover for the DUP, the draft propsed earlier this week already suggests that the governments are not so precious about the previous agreement as the SDLP and neither it appears are the UUP or more critically from an SDLP viewpoint are SF.

    If a deal could be done with the DUP in 1998, they for sure and certain the SDLP are despensable today.

  • peteb

    Keith

    providing political cover now, either to the DUP or to SF, doesn’t just have potential implications for devolution (the “new arrangement which suits the DUP and SF” that you mention) – it also has more profound long-term implications for transparency and, as a result, accountability in any resultant ‘democratic’ structures here.

  • willowfield

    Does it matter what the SDLP thinks?

    Surely it’s what the DUP and the Provos think that matters?

  • peteb

    Let’s see, Willow.. roughly (if we take the 2003 Assembly vote) only 50% of those who actually voted gave their 1st preference vote to either the DUP or SF…

    So.. do you really think we should just leave everything to those 2 political parties to decide? Assuming they could decide between them that is.

  • Davros

    Careful Pete – we have a new contributor using the handle “Willow” .

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    There are four parties that qualify for Executive postions should the Assembly be up and running again. While the DUP and SF are the main players obviously the UUP and SDLP have significant input.

  • peteb

    I think Willowfield knows who I’m referring to, Davros.

  • Anonymous

    Peteb

    Wasn’t the formula for the Agreement that a majority of nationalist delegates and a majority of unionist delegates had to agree?

    Assuming it’s the same for the review, that means a deal between the Provos and DUP is sufficient, as they represent the majority of nationalists and unionists respectively.

  • Anonymous

    That was me (Willowfield). Why are my posts becoming anonymous?

  • peteb

    I think you’re confusing the system of dual-consent for contentious issues brought before the Assembly (such as who sits in the Executive) with the actual negotiations, Willowfield.

    But if you want to argue that we should leave the review to 2 parties who, between them, can only claim to represent 50% of those who voted.. go ahead.

  • peteb

    Perhaps Mick’s trying to tell you something Willowfield ;o)

  • Anonymous

    I Know Pete, but it could cause confusion 🙂

  • Paul A. Fitzsimmons

    “Could the DUP really abandon devolution and possibly an incredible prize for them that the UUP could not deliver

  • willowfield

    peteb

    I think you’re confusing the system of dual-consent for contentious issues brought before the Assembly (such as who sits in the Executive) with the actual negotiations, Willowfield.

    No. I’m pretty sure the formula applied to the talks.

    But what are you saying? The SDLP, as a minority nationalist party, has the power to veto an agreement?

  • Ciaran

    This move could be a calculated risk by the SDLP.

    There is a danger that they become portrayed as holding up an Agreement of sorts, or a perceived better Agreement for Nationalists is thrashed out that leaves them out in the cold and seen as insignificant.

    However, their position will also highlight the lengths SF will go to to achieve power in Stormont, a place they once vowed they wouldn’t go near. If SF backs down to the DUP how will this go down with the Nationalist electorate? Given that the IRA, apparently, are willing to stand down at the behest of the DUP inspite of previous requests from the majority of people on this island and further afield which were ignored.
    Similar agreements were in place before but ignored, lambasted or not fully implemented by SF and the IRA, whats changed apart from SF becoming the largest Nationalist party and being in the position of wielding more power in a new executive? If this move by the SDLP shows the SF leadership as simply power hungry, and themselves as the only Nationalist party truly commited to the GFA then it may be a job well done from their perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Ciaran
    ” whats changed apart from SF becoming the largest Nationalist party”

    Aspirations in the South and the general election in say 2006

  • Anonymous

    The above was me alan warren You have a security bug contact me at vote@greens-in,org

    Alan

  • Anonymous

    It was interesting on H&M last night that Durkan was trying to give the impression that the DUP demands for tweaking the Agreement amounted to an “anti-Agreement” policy, while both the Provos and the UUP acknowledged that the DUP had “swallowed the camel” (i.e. bought the GFA) and were just looking for a fig-leaf.

    I don’t think the Durkan/DUP position is credible.

  • Anonymous

    That was me (Willowfield).

  • Anonymous

    Patsy McGlone SDLP wrote;

  • Ciaran

    Alan,
    Does it promote a spirt of trust if everytime a Nationalist Minister makes a future decision it must be vetted by the DUP? How long would it be under the DUPs new executive that it collapses because Ministers can never agree on a way forward and have to argue every decision through? (In a climate where the Equality Commission already scrutinises every decision/policy made by Departments).
    Maybe I’m taking this up wrong but under DUP proposals you’d be better just letting Senior Civil servants make Depts decisions and then let the executive take a vote than have the falseness of a Minister being perceived responsible for anything.

  • Butterknife

    DUP = Old UUP
    Sinn Fein = Old SDLP
    SDLP = New DUP
    UUP = Old DUP but without the Paisleyites

  • Anonymous

    Caiiran

    If there is agreement on decommissioning, standing down whatever you like to call it seize it and move on. If the DUP need a fig leaf well fine with me, if the whole edifice degenerates into farce well let us worry about that when it happens.

    What is wrong with a bit of rigor and vetting in a system that has no opposition? If that ability is abused it will soon become clear.

    Let us give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Who knows they may even surprise us.

    I want rid of direct rule and if Water Rates are introduced, 11 plus reformed etc I want our lot in there to take the flack. It is hard to put pressure on a Minister from Wolverhampton who is in a safe Labour seat though I am working on it!

    posted by alan

  • Davros

    “everytime a Nationalist Minister makes a future decision it must be vetted by the DUP”

    and every time a DUP minister makes a decision it will be vetted by the rest of the House ! Just as every time by an SDLP minister makes a decision THAT will be vetted by the rest of the house …NOT just the DUP , but also the UUP, APNI and Sinn F

  • Ciaran

    Alan, agree totally on direct rule etc, Water rates are a done deal.
    While we’re all aware of the obvious bonuses of decomissioning and the IRA standing down, I fail to see why any such moves should lead to a system where the DUP hold the cards. The initial agreement was backed by both governments and even had UN approval but it should all be changed for the DUP??? Wheres the fig leaves for the other parties or is this a privilige only the DUP is entitled too?

  • Anonymous

    Ciaran

    I agree with Davros unless I am mistaken it is a check on all ministers? Are the SDLP more worried than the rest about accountability, surely not? I don

  • Davros

    Alan – surely coalition governments usually rely on interparty co-operation rather than ceding areas of absolute authority ?

    And there’s no reason why the DUP idea wouldn’t work ..IF the DUP WERE bloody-minded then the other parties would make sure that NONE of the DUP minister’s bills would survive , and the DUP would HAVE to behave.

  • Ciaran

    Alan, It certainly won’t be cosy for my Bank balance:) but with the consultation etc having been done they’re well on the road.

    Davros, Alan – With regards to having elections etc, why not let the Ministers who made the decisions be judged on them by the electorate rather than fellow executive members with their own agendas? Maybe then people will learn to vote on delivery rather than tribal lines.

  • Davros

    Problem with that Ciaran is that the electorate ONLY get to make their decision AFTER damage has been done.

    Frankly this is nationalism being obstructive rather than the other way round … and bloody stupid as well …as a unionist I DON’T want a DUP or a UUP Minister to be given absolute authority any more than I want to see a SF minister given absolute authority!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Davros

    In the talks, I believe this was referred to as ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’…

    MAD, innit?

  • Anonymous

    BG -I was wondering -looking at how our politicians behave over decommissioning and the claimed need for weapons for deterrence – if it would be better to offer all the paramilitaries one nuke in exchange for all their other weapons ….

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Only if I get one as well. If I’m going to hell, yous are all coming too!

    Bwahahaha!

  • Davros

    That’s the idea 🙂

  • Willow

    The reason the SDLP are holding strong on this Agreement is because if they dont, the minute the new executive is formed it will only be a matter of time before it collapses again!
    The DUP cannot hide behind mellow words. If their version of “power sharing” is allowed, every time a fenian makes a decision the 30 DUPer’s will overrule it. Does anyone really think that this type of Devolved Government would be a success??????

  • Davros

    Willow …How would 30 DUP MLAs outvote 70 + NON-DUP MLA’s ?

  • JT

    “Water rates are a done deal”

    This is correct because the SDLP , more particularly Mark Durkan(and David Trimble) agreed to them at the time of the Treasury Loan to the Executive. This will be confirmed by Pearson when presents his plan to the select committee shortly. So the Durkan Tax is a done deal but he’s not admitting it.

  • willowfield

    We already pay water rates.

  • Ciaran

    Davros, it only takes 30 ministers to hold things up under the DUP proposal as far as I’m aware. Given as I stated that Depts decisions are already scrutinised by the Equality Commission this is needless bureaucracy. Or will Nationalist Ministers be in bed with the Romanist Civil Service?:)

  • Ciaran

    Perhaps this would explain their stance better..
    http://www.sdlp.ie/SDLPDUPMyths22sep04.doc

  • willowfield

    30 ministers! Bloody hell, I thought the DUP wanted to slim down the administration!

  • Davros

    “will Nationalist Ministers be in bed with the Romanist Civil Service?”

    If so I hope they follow Cafod advice 😉

  • Davros

    Ciaran… I wish the nationalist parties would make their minds up … They don’t seem to be able to decide if they oppose ANY modification of the autonomy enjoyed by Ministers in the past OR ONLY the form of modification proposed by the DUP !

    If it’s the former they should come out and say that they want ministerial dictatorship.

    If it’s the latter then it shouldn’t be a big deal to sort out a system that satisfies all the parties.

    eg … if 40 MLAs object in writing to the Speaker, a debate and vote can be held and the Minister decision can only be rejected if 68 MLAS vote No. That way there would have to be cross-U/N (Unionist + Nationalist) support at the Vote stage. In effect it would take 3 of the Big 4 parties to overturn a contentious decision. Neither the DUP + Unionists , nor SF + SDLP would be able to be obstructive. The DUP wouldn’t have sufficient muscle to force a vote on their own.
    None of the parties would … but the combined nationalist constituency WOULD be able to force a vote if they felt that a Unionist minister was acting improperly.

  • shaypaul

    Why don’t the DUP blame the SDLP and not Sinn Fein ?

    Simple answer :

    The only “romanists” they are prepared to tolerate are the Stoop Down Low Party variety. They won’t talk to SF so they wont blame them on anything , just ignore them.

    This is not a clever thought out strategy it is their mindset. It is called sectarianism.

    As for the strategy of accountability and transparent government. The DUP are not a “liberal” party with benevolent feelings towards dissidents, they “show” a united disciplined front.

    That show is possible, because they have a simple unifying force:

    Their fundamental strategy is very simple – “Destroy the Agreement”.

    Why talk to SF – that does not advance their strategy, and it contradicts their sectarianism.

    Why lecture SDLP – blaming them advances their strategy as it weakens the agreement and may permit them to start to unravel it. It contradicts their sectarianism but this is acceptable since they are considered at best “convertible” or at worst “tolerable”.

    So why do the SDLP say no?

    Maybe they know what the DUP is up to.

    So we are rolling backwards at the moment, how far back will we go remains to be seen.

    As big Ian is an incarnation of the 18th century mindset I fear we might hit a time warp.

  • Paul A. Fitzsimmons

    Shaypaul:

    With every respect, I tend more to agree with Barry White’s comments today in “Blair and SDLP should have studied the DUP’s manifesto

    Paul

  • ShayPaul

    Paul,

    I also agree with Barry White’s comments. I think that it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.

    Where I differ in my more provocative text is in my analysis of the “strategy” rather than the tactics.

    At the moment the only way the DUP can maintain its united front is by appealing to a dogmatic faith in the “credentials” of Dr No.

    Some might claim that without that particular variant within Unionism NI might well have evolved into a modern democratic state without “the troubles”.

    I am just pointing out that we are going backwards, and the agreement is in danger of unravelling rather quickly.

    Am I surprised ? NO.
    Am I disappointed ? YES.
    Because the agreement is the only answer? NO.
    Why ? BECAUSE SECTARIANISM IS GAINING GROUND IN NI.

    Sectarianism is THE problem.

  • ShayPaul

    Paul,

    I also agree with Barry White’s comments. I think that it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.

    Where I differ in my more provocative text is in my analysis of the “strategy” rather than the tactics.

    At the moment the only way the DUP can maintain its united front is by appealing to a dogmatic faith in the “credentials” of Dr No.

    Some might claim that without that particular variant within Unionism NI might well have evolved into a modern democratic state without “the troubles”.

    I am just pointing out that we are going backwards, and the agreement is in danger of unravelling rather quickly.

    Am I surprised ? NO.
    Am I disappointed ? YES.
    Because the agreement is the only answer? NO.
    Why ? BECAUSE SECTARIANISM IS GAINING GROUND IN NI.

    Sectarianism is THE problem.

  • ShayPaul

    Sorry for the double post

  • Davros

    What’s wrong with the model I proposed ?

  • shaypaul

    Davros :

    I think the problem is that the DUP have to be clear on the principles.

    If they embrace the principle of face to face negotiations with elected parties, if they embrace the structures as a way forward,
    I believe that many will be prepared to discuss the workings of the structures with them.

    The sad truth is that many do not believe that they are doing anything other than tactically destroying the agreement to wind back the clock.

    That lack of trust is underlined by the body language and statements from DUP reps recently.

    Listening is an art, listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

    I have heard and seen some very clear signals from DUP lately :

    “In 1998 the nationalists got the best deal ever, we intend to balance that…”

    “I don’t care about the SF voters, or their mandate ….”

    “Romanists …”

    These are all sectarian comments that are provoking silent shock waves at the moment.

    Sectarianism is growing daily at the moment in NI, it is becoming very tangible and this is no good for anyone.

    Why did the DUP not up the ante and obtain the clearest possible statement from the IRA to date ?

    Maybe the existence of the IRA is not their primary occupation ?
    Some might argue that their stream of Unionism resurrected the IRA in the late 60’s.

    What does the term “accountability” really mean to the DUP ?

    Is it not another term for majority rule ?

    These are the type of questions being generated by the “silent shock wave” I mentioned.

    So how do we break the win-loose “zero sum game” in NI.

    By adhering to fundamental values, and everyone embracing the need for change.

    Win-win in NI has to be based on values, and these have to be stronger than the sectarian instincts that we breed here.

    Am I pessimistic ?

    Not at all, our children and their children will do a better job than us.

    What bugs me ?

    The sadness and hatred in the place I was born.

  • Anonymous

    Shaypaul, I’m not in any way supporting the DUP.

    But I would like to know how the model I proposed fails to address the obstacles
    Regardless of motive, DUP say they want some form of accountability.
    That is translated by nationalists, who say they don’t oppose acccountability, as wanting a DUP Veto. which would be unacceptable to them.

    Let’s look at this

    OK, I have suggested a way that we would have accountability and in which it would be impossible for any single party to block the work of a Minister.

  • Anonymous

    above posted by Davros

  • ShayPaul

    Davros

    Interesting as your proposals may be, I do not have the time to engage in structural negotiations with you.

    Please do not see that as a sidestep, take it on face value.

    I do see the GFA as the end of the road, far from it.

    My remarks about “values” are not innocent, naive thoughts.

    Others talk lately of “principles” or “the fundamental core” etc etc…

    Some would evoke a “constitution” or ” human rights” or “equality” or “civil rights”.

    Whenever we enter into the zero-sum game and get dragged into perpetually playing one “community” off against another “community” we get nowhere.

    A modern democratic state worthy of the good people of NI, has to be of a very high standard.

    It has to be based on “values”:

    It has to have a police force of the highest calibre which commands the respect and allegiance of the “vast” majority.

    It has to have a judiciary system above and beyond reproach.

    It has to have respect for all regardless of colour or creed engraved at the heart of its principles.

    It has to be constructed in such a way that any citizen is confident that his individual rights will be respected and defended by the state regardless of his political opinions.

    It has to put power in the hands of the people, for the people.

    It has to provide the opportunity for all our citizens to develop individually and fulfill their potential.

    The history of the state in NI means that other qualities are required to enable us to escape the traps of the past and progress together into the future.

    I believe the state should provide integrated education by default, and that religion should be excluded completely from public life.

    Peoples religious liberties should be protected but never be allowed to take precedence over other fundamental rights.

    If these values make up the future state, the numbers game will be of little importance other than the expression of this or that political tendency in the context of a global common consensus.

    To pretend that “accountability” is the hot issue in NI is to take the people of this place for idiots, and that is not the case.

    The hot issue is eliminating sectarianism and building a society that doesn’t care if you’re a prod or a taig.

    It isn’t a pipe dream – cross the border, cross the sea, cross the Atlantic, cross to Europe.

    Ask them to explain the difference between a catholic and a protestant. I don’t think you’ll find many that think that its the big topic of the 21st century.

  • Davros

    Plenty of time to waffle …I guess you aren’t really all that concerned about getting a mutually acceptable system up and running, you just enjoy DUP bashing.

  • ShayPaul

    “Plenty of time to waffle …I guess you aren’t really all that concerned about getting a mutually acceptable system up and running, you just enjoy DUP bashing.

    Posted by: Davros at September 26, 2004 12:46 PM”

    Apart from your obvious “value judgments” playing the man and not the ball as usual :

    Your “mutually acceptable system” statement proves the point. That’s just another way of playing the zero-sum game. It has at its heart the inevitability of sectarianism. I don’t accept that sort of “bullshit” as I’ve pointed out to you before.

    I have no interest in bashing the DUP.

    I respect their position and their electorate.

    I simply point out that their strategy is moving us away from the key issues and the end of the spiral.

    I have proposed supra-majority voting in the past as a solution, so I have no problem debating the point with you.

    I have however a time problem (priority problem) and cannot engage now.

    Your incapacity to believe that is your problem, enjoy your weekend, with all due respect.

  • Anonymous

    ‘our “mutually acceptable system” statement proves the point. That’s just another way of playing the zero-sum game. It has at its heart the inevitability of sectarianism. I don’t accept that sort of “bullshit” as I’ve pointed out to you before.’

    Right Shay- you don’t accept that Unionist and Nationalist should negotiate , I disagree.