And those rules are?

In contrast to the stand-off that preceded them, again in the Irish Times, the SDLP came out of the meeting with the Irish Government talking about proposals to move forward – SDLP puts forward own proposals – “We surely now have come to the end of the line of a process of trying to manage the problems surrounding the agreement focusing exclusively on one or two parties.

Mark Durkan seemed equally concerned to emphasise that the ‘old game’ is over, saying –

..there had been “certain flaws in how the process has been conducted and managed” and said these should now be addressed. The process should now become “a process of equals.

“We surely now have come to the end of the line of a process of trying to manage the problems surrounding the agreement focusing exclusively on one or two parties.”

Mr Durkan’s remarks after his meeting with the Taoiseach and two Ministers yesterday reflect SDLP frustration at being sidelined in the political process for much of last year while the British and Irish governments sought to reach an agreement between the largest unionist and nationalist parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin.

He also appeared to rule out what he described as the “forms of exclusion”, in particular, the DUP proposals before Christmas [which] had opened the possibility of exclusion of some parties

And said that the Taoiseach had confirmed that he would not be revising the clear view he had stated in relation to the Northern Bank raid.

He [the Taosieach] made it very clear that those views are based on what Irish intelligence sources are telling him, and not just on what Hugh Orde has said.

“He also underlined to us his determination that this problem, and the serious concerns that it gives rise to, won’t be used to derail the process. He, like ourselves, is committed to taking things forward.”

The SDLP leader appeared to suggest that next month’s intergovernmental meeting between the Irish and British Governments may be a deadline for the response from Sinn Féin that Bertie Ahern referred to –

He said drift and stalemate were not an option and that the two governments had to act, “and exercise good authority, and they can do that under the agreement using the British/Irish intergovernmental conference”.

This body would meet next month, he said, and the Taoiseach had given them “certain commitments as to how the Government would approach that meeting”.[my emphasis]

  • IJP

    The process should now become “a process of equals.

    Whereas it was quite OK for it to be unequal from 1998-2003, because the SDLP was the leading Nat party?

    We surely now have come to the end of the line of a process of trying to manage the problems surrounding the agreement focusing exclusively on one or two parties.

    That wouldn’t be because the SDLP has suddenly realized it isn’t among the ‘one or two parties’?

    Sorry Mark, but blatant hypocrisy ain’t gonna do it. And nor is your usual tactic of taking 54 paragraphs to say precisely nothing.

    Anyone any idea what the SDLP position actually is?!

  • Belfast Gonzo

    1) Not to do anything itself.

    2) Ask the Governments to take action that doesn’t involve excluding SF.

    3) Appoint commissioners to run the country.

  • J Kelly

    Anyone any idea what the SDLP position actually is?!

    I wouldn’t like to comment as it may have changed by the time anyone reads this.

  • Henry94

    Anyone any idea what the SDLP position actually is?!

    To remain unarmed and willing to share power?

  • J Kelly

    Henry you have to have power or the poential to get power to share it and neither option are available to the SDLP at present.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “Anyone any idea what the SDLP position actually is?!”

    I think it was Donnie who hit the nail on the head when he said that in the nationalist community the SDLP are seen as the party that can deliver peace but Sinn Fein are seen as the party that can deliver change.

    Currently, we kinda have peace, and the conflict is receding in memory – which diminishes the currency of what the SDLP has to offer. But SF promise change, and nationalists aren’t just trying to be awkward when we insist on change. NI remains a unionist-dominated state and if that doesn’t change then the danger remains that a generation or so down the line we’ll find ourselves fighting the same war all over again.

    What I don’t think the SDLP has yet realised is that the nationalist community has changed. The elder statesmen of the SDLP grew up under the jackboot of the Stormont junta, and I know people of that generation like my dad bitterly resented their second-class status. But they also had – indeed still have – an illogical inferiority complex. It’s like Steve Biko said, the most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the minds of the oppressed.

    But younger nationalist voters have no such complex. The idea that unionists are somehow inherently superior has been completely eradicated from the nationalist subconscious.

    Which is problematic for the SDLP as they represent the unconfident nationalist community of the past. The old Stoop Down Low jibe is accepted as having had at least a ring of truth to it. They give the impression that they would accept anything – however the nationalist community they seek to represent has moved beyond the point of being willing to accept just anything.

    The SDLP desperately need to redefine their mission. If I was Durkan I would bite the bullet on the assembly, accept that it’s gone at least in the medium term and stop talking about it – after all, it’s a six county institution anyway. Hard for the SDLP I know, as they see the agreement as their baby, but they need to stop being such a bloody six county party.

    They need to start talking about beefing up the cross-border bodies and moving towards joint sovereignty in the north – and not be afraid to mention it just because unionists won’t like it. They need to start pointing out that if the tribes in the north can’t reach agreement, that only blocks one strand of the agreement. They need to keep banging on about the other two strands, particularly the north-south element. They need to study the cross-border bodies and identify every single instance where the sheer common sense of an all Ireland approach yields results. They need to trumpet each and every success of the cross-border bodies, no matter how small, as though it were the second coming of Christ.

    Nationalists will LOVE that, and that’s where the potential votes are.

    The SDLP need to start working overtime developing coherent socio-economic and anti-sectarian arguments for unification. The arguments are there to be made and will carry more weight from a party with no IRA baggage. Sinn Fein are in serious danger of ensnaring themselves in a sectarian six-county dogfight with unionism – the SDLP must take advantage of their period in Siberia by regrouping and recasting themselves as the nationalist party that looks beyond that. They need to recast the debate not as one of nationalism vs unionism, but of common sense vs unionism. That’s the only chance they have in the future.

    (Oh, and I’ll stick my neck out and predict a merger of some sort with Fianna Fail in 2005.)

  • IJP

    Thanks Billy, that’s a really useful assessment.

    They need to recast the debate not as one of nationalism vs unionism, but of common sense vs unionism.

    The truth, in fact, is that it should be common sense vs. all-forms-of-nationalism (including both unionism and Irish nationalism).

    We will never get true stability if we continue to pursue a political carve-up based on social half-truths, religious irrelevance and historical myth – we must abolish these and the parties which draw their lifeblood from them.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    The old Stoop Down Low jibe is accepted as having had at least a ring of truth to it

    Yes, but as a time moved on it wore out. “Schoolteachers, Doctors and Lawyers Party” was one of the best alternatives, closely followed by “Sell Derry Loaded Promises”. I always enjoyed their reaction when they were referred to as “nationalist socialists”.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    The old Stoop Down Low jibe is accepted as having had at least a ring of truth to it

    Yes, but as a time moved on it wore out. “Schoolteachers, Doctors and Lawyers Party” was one of the best alternatives, closely followed by “Sell Derry Loaded Promises”. I always enjoyed their reaction when they were referred to as “nationalist socialists”.

  • TroubledTimes

    The SDLP position is what all the other parties require for their to be a solution.
    Mr Pilgrim, I think your comments are the most sensible I have heard.
    I believe that the current makeup of the SDLP is doomed at the next election, but I think this is a good thing.
    Why?
    Because it will give rise to a better Nationalist party in the North. I think there are many elected members within the SDLP who could do with being in a new party as the current SDLP are simply too silent and not providing leadership. Their methods and organisation and leadership is outdated and out of touch.
    I look forward to seeing an All Ireland party that can deliver real results.

  • Peace and Justice

    Billy Pilgrim:
    A nice bit of propaganda. You conveniently forget about how Protestants were treated in the Republic. The discrimination, the hatred, the murders, the jackboot of Irish Republicanism. Not to mention the treatment of Protestants along the border areas of Northern Ireland.

    The problem with the SDLP is that they are afraid to cut the umbilical cord connecting them to Sinn Fein IRA and the Pan Nationalist Front. The Government of the Irish Republic has now given them a great opportunity to do so. But no, they just can’t leave behind the murderers of Sinn Fein IRA. During the conflict the SDLP always verbally attacked the security forces while Sinn Fein IRA killed them. If the SDLP really want stability, let them finally stand up for it. If they continue to hide in the shadow of Sinn Fein IRA, what’s the point of the SDLP?

  • TroubledTimes

    Fair point Peace and Justice,
    But answer this. How can there be a resolution to the Northern Ireland conflict if one of the main perpetrators are not involved in its resolution i.e the Republican movement, Sinn Fein, IRA?
    I think the SDLP are aware that abandoning them to form a Government would be electoral suicide. The current makeup of the SDLP is about to go out of business. Sinn Fein will soon have much stronger contenders to deal with in the near future.

  • mogo

    Spot on Billy, people did try and keep their heads down and it was illogical and it is gone but the SDLP must accept they helped foster this attitude with their support for the statelet that oppressed their own people.So like the statelet and attitude the party would be best just wrapped up.

  • barnshee

    The solution is staring everyone in the face but they refuse to recognise. The two communities grow apart by the day the coming elections will increase the polarisation even further–let us recognise reality -the marriage failed -divorce and the appropriate maintenance is the only viable long term solution.

  • Peace and Justice

    “TroubledTimes: How can there be a resolution to the Northern Ireland conflict if one of the main perpetrators are not involved in its resolution i.e the Republican movement, Sinn Fein, IRA?”

    Using that logic means that whatever Sinn Fein IRA do must be tolerated in the interests of ‘peace’. In most countries it’s called appeasement. Democrats have stretched themselves enough to bring these murderers in from the cold. After all the concessions, it’s time to draw the line. If Sinn Fein IRA want to continue with their dual strategy, then there needs to be a security response – as suggested by the Irish Government. Sinn Fein IRA have no automatic right to be in any Government. Coalitions are used throughout the world to run countries. It’s just a pity that in Northern Ireland the majority of Roman Catholics vote for people who engage in murder, torture and criminality. The Roman Catholic church leaders must be very proud of themselves.

    “mogo: … the SDLP must accept they helped foster this attitude with their support for the statelet that oppressed their own people.”

    The use of terms like statelets is quite insulting to the greater number of people in Northern Ireland. Whenever Unionists make comments about the Republic, they are accused of being sectarian. Yet Sinn Fein IRA frequently use the term “statelet” while going on to talk about human rights. Yes, let’s have some human rights for Protestants and Unionists as well.

    I think the SDLP did help to foster its own demise – because Hume put the Pan Nationalist Front ahead of peace with his Unionist neighbour.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Peace and Justice.

    “A nice bit of propaganda. You conveniently forget about how Protestants were treated in the Republic. The discrimination, the hatred, the murders, the jackboot of Irish Republicanism. Not to mention the treatment of Protestants along the border areas of Northern Ireland.’’

    I was discussing Northern Ireland, not the Republic. The SDLP is the topic of discussion, so of course Northern Ireland in general and the northern nationalist community in particular is the topic of discussion. Nothing you have said about the Republic actually addresses the point I made. Your argument is sheer whataboutery.

    “The problem with the SDLP is that they are afraid to cut the umbilical cord connecting them to Sinn Fein IRA and the Pan Nationalist Front. The Government of the Irish Republic has now given them a great opportunity to do so.’’
    But I thought the `pan-nationalist front’ of unionist fantasy was SF, the SDLP and the Irish government? Besides, don’t you see that the logic of your argument is that the SDLP’s problem is that they are, well, nationalists? That their problems would be solved if they ceased to be nationalists? Don’t think you have thought this through. After all, it’s the votes of the nationalist community they are after.

    “During the conflict the SDLP always verbally attacked the security forces while Sinn Fein IRA killed them.’’

    Not half as strongly as they used to attack the IRA. Fact is the SDLP are the main reason why thousands upon thousands of young, impressionable middle class Catholics like myself never joined the IRA. Of the four main parties they are the only one who can look back on their role over the last 40 years with pride. They are the only party that tried to keep the lid on things, and they could never have achieved that by “cutting the umbilical cord’’, as you suggest.

    All the other parties went with the insane and homicidal policy of peace through victory. With your arguments that there’d be no problem if nationalists just stopped being nationalists, I see you’re still stuck on that page.

    All I can say is that you are overlooking the fundamental reality of northern Irish politics. The other crowd exist and they aren’t going away.

    Barnshee

    “The solution is staring everyone in the face but they refuse to recognise. The two communities grow apart by the day the coming elections will increase the polarisation even further–let us recognise reality -the marriage failed -divorce and the appropriate maintenance is the only viable long term solution.’’

    You mean repartition? Why not use the word? If that’s what you’re advocating, where do you think would be a fair location for this new border? (By the by, I think repartition is a terrible idea. Just look and the infantility created by the current border, an infantility that is the central characteristic of every aspect of the state. Economically dependent to a dizzying degree, psychological incapable of countenancing paying for anything ourselves and politically can’t be trusted with anything beyond taking out the bins. The people of the north-east of Ireland used to be a lot better than we are now – world leaders in fact. Now look at us.

    Sectarian Solution Mk I made us pathetic. Sectarian Solution Mk II ain’t no solution at all.