Sinn Féin and SDLP – the options

Jude Collins has an excellent article in the Daily Ireland which looks at the implications of the effective demise of the UUP. He argues that the strength of the DUP will damage the prospects for nationalist candidates and looks at the options for Sinn Féin and the SDLP.He argues that as the SDLP has now fully embraced the cause of Unification it is worth considering not only electoral pacts but even an SDLP-SF merger. Nationalism is now faced with a strong and united unionismAs for policy differences, he writes:

There are differences in the economic and social policies advocated by the two parties, but I bet you can’t mention a major one off the top of your head. Education, health, housing, water charges: the overlap is consistently more striking than any difference. Policing is a point on which they part, but the goal of a fully accountable police service is a shared one.

Seamus Mallon’s warning about Balkanisation is addressed at the end of his article

So would the emergence of a single nationalist party alongside a single unionist party be bad for us? Seamus Mallon thinks so – it would balkanise us to bits, he says. An odd comment to come from a former history teacher, since balkanisation suggests fragmentation rather than coming together.
But whether Mallon or anyone likes it or hates it, unionism has now officially flocked to the banner of the DUP. Starting this week, a single unionist party is a reality. If nationalism doesn’t respond, starting with a level-headed look at all the options, it will pay the price.

So, could the SDLP and SF set their differences aside in order to counter the strength of a strong Unionist party ? As Jude points out in the absence of an effective UUP victories such as those snatched by Alistair McDonnell and Michelle Gildernew would become a thing of the past.

Next Westminster election, Alasdair McDonnell in South Belfast won’t squeeze to victory through the middle because there’ll be no middle. Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh/South Tyrone won’t win on 18,000+ votes because the unionist vote won’t be nicely divided into DUP: 14,000 and UUP : 9,000. If there’s a single unionist candidate in these and perhaps other constituencies, nationalism won’t stand a chance.

Food for thought or are decades of hostility an insurmountable obstacle to electoral pacts or even a merger ?