Durkan could be challenged, at some stage..

Hmmm… not really sure to make of this front page story on Daily Ireland. Eddie Espie who resigned from the party a few weeks back joins with Belfast party dissident and former Lord Mayor Martin Morgan to criticise the leadership and hint that there may be stalking horse challenge in the offing. North Report blog is playing host to an interesting discussion on the provenance of the story. One to keep an eye on in future weeks.

  • J Kelly

    Come on Mick spill the beans on the first Espie story you hinted that all wasn’t well with Durkan and co and your at it again with, One to keep an eye on in future weeks. Even I dont believe that EE and MM are credible challengers but who are they stalking for or another question who benefits.

  • mark

    While Espie’s challenge is likely to come to nothing, as noted by DI with the reference to Lee Reynolds these internal disaffections have a habit of growing once in the open.

    Morgan’s comments on Espie’s site are strong.

    “The unfortunate part of this is that it is not enough. Some high ranking representatives are anything but representative and are more concerned about making money and getting some form of publicity.
    Where were some of the senior representatives when times where particularly harsh for people living in the Ardoyne, the Markets and many other districts of the North?
    Some of them went on holidays over the 12th of July and some of them lay in their beds, whilst colleagues repeatedly stood on the streets attempting in their own small way to assist the people in their time of need.
    Such things are not forgotten by the people and their views on such behaviour are being reflected at election time in constituencies across the north. Just look at the numbers. Some sitting MLAs lost half of their vote between Assembly elections. Some councillors had significantly reduced votes at the Council elections in 2005 and just scraped over the line.
    What is disappointing is that these individuals don’t care about such things as long as they are elected. Have they lost all of their respect and dignity about being the guardian of that party’s vote and why do they not take responsibility for the loss of those votes?
    These are only some of the issues that have not just challenged the SDLP (perhaps not enough) but also the voter.”

    With Espie’s references to family cabals and Morgan’s to policing the finger certainly seems to point at the Attwoods everytime a former senior SDLP member leaves and opens up the issue of internal dissent.

    A story destined to run and run.

  • J Kelly

    there is no doubt that at the centre of all that is wrong both internally and externally with the sdlp is Alex Attwood. Fortunately Mark Durkan seems to listen to him a lot and while he does the SDLP will simply be a shadow of their former selves and getting smaller.

  • mark


    The discussion on provenance on North Report seems to centre on, just because its in DI it should be dismissed.

    Well unfortunately for that line of argument the story is solely based on lengthy interviews with a former very senior member of the SDLP and a current member who has just resigned from a senior post.

    The provenance is impeccable.

    The desire from what to seem to be SDLP supporters for hard stories not to be covered (a situation they are used to with the Irish news ignoring these topics completely currently and previously) is understandable.

    Hurling muck at DI in an attempt to bury a story initiated by ‘their own’ won’t wash. It’s not interesting, its predictable.

    But as Morgan and Espie point out the SDLP don’t listen and their reaction to internal criticism being made public confirms this

  • Garibaldy

    I remember being at an event where Morgan said he was a socialist in a nationalist party. i guess that’s changed now he says his politics are similar to FF in the DI article. Although given his tendency to refer to his repeated usage of the term catholic nationalist community to describe who he represented while a councillor in north belfast i always was a little sceptical of his socialist credentials

  • mark

    Any SDLP members out there willing to reveal the technicalities of how this leadership challenge can be mounted? (Eddie?)

  • To challenge the leader they would have to have an SDLP memebr, which neither of them are, who can get enough nominations to stand for leader. Then it would go to a vote at party conference, delegates from branches would have the oppertunity to vote.

    The pic reminds me of Laurel and Hardy.

    This is laughable. Espie left before he was puched, party support for him was dwindling.

    Who is there as a credible candidate, in reality it must be an MP, Can’t see eddie which only leaves Allisdair.

  • Snuff Box


    “Who is there as a credible candidate, in reality it must be an MP, Cant see eddie which only leaves Allisdair.”

    Why does a potential leader have to be an MP? Surely a MLA would be enough. As for example the UUP.

  • seabhac siulach

    Durkan himself was no M.P., until last year, of course…

  • Fountain of Knowledge

    Im pre-empting members opinions. I would assume people would want someone with enough of a mandate to be elected MP. UUP had a problem as thier only MP did not want the position.

  • mark: “The discussion on provenance on North Report seems to centre on, just because its in DI it should be dismissed.”

    I don’t think that’s accurate. The point is that there is no connection between these individuals other than the match that appears to have been made by DI. As garibaldy points out in this thread, Espie has described himself as a Socialist, while Morgan claims to want FF to move North.

    Morgan now claims that he left the SDLP because of its stance on policing and Espie ‘agrees with this analysis’, but Espie only became actively involved in the party after Morgan left and ran for office only after the policy had been approved.

    Further, if you look at martin Morgan’s apparent retraction in tonight’s Telegraph (‘Mr Morgan stressed, however: “It’s not anti-Durkan. I am not involved in any leadership challenge.

    “I didn’t even know anything about it until last week.”) The only sensible conclusion I can come to is that this agenda is being driven by the newspaper which is putting it on the front page.

    And one more thing. is it really ‘hurling muck at DI’ to suggest that a self-styled campaigning newspaper has an agenda hostile to its political enemies?

  • Gum

    Gotta love the pic of Espie and Morgan! This guy’s hilarious. Surely there will be nothing here for Durkan to lose sleep over. Espie seems to think he is some political heavyweight. His website gives the impression of someone full of their own self-importance. And why the desire to have FF in the North? Surely it will be the end of the SDLP altogether?

  • mark

    The FF angle has had other vocal senior supporters.

    Previously, PJ Bradley keen to stand for FF and ‘The SDLP’s Omagh council member, Pat McDonnell, has called for the party to hold a special meeting on the matter.’ Whatever happened to that idea?

    Or are PJ Bradley and Pat McDonnell part of the Daily Ireland/Sinn Féin/Morgan/Espie plot against the SDLP too?

    The Sunday Business Post by covering stories on internal SDLP problems becoming public are they plotting?

    I think the problem is some SDLP supporters can’t stand the idea this stuff gets coverage now the SDLP leaning Irish News is not alone a market place.

  • mark


    I think it a bit disengenuous to say ‘but Espie only became actively involved in the party after Morgan left and ran for office only after the policy had been approved.’

    When Espie was selected to run for election in 2001 an election Morgan defended his seat in.

  • slug

    Mark – it would be fair to say you are an SF supporter?

  • slug

    Also is it fair to say Mark that you are no friend of the SDLP, and have in the past not been any great fan of Eddie Espie?

  • mark


    No, it would not be ‘fair’ to say any of your above. The story is about the SDLP. It would be fair to comment on that. (there is a man not balls rule around here I believe, attack the balls not the man… or something like that)

    Or is the idea to dismiss any commentary on this story? Seems a common strategy. (a plot…???)

  • slug

    Fair enough Mark although I seem to remember that you suspected Eddie Espie of being behind some anonymous posting here.

  • mark: “I think the problem is some SDLP supporters can’t stand the idea this stuff gets coverage now the SDLP leaning Irish News is not alone a market place.”

    The funny thing is that this comment appeared in the post where you pointed to others in SDLP having called for SDLP realignment with FF. If you had been following the issue at all you would know that the most vocal advocate of the issue is actually Irish News columnist Tom Kelly.

    The FF issue is peripheral to the issue at hand – I know Fianna Fail politics well and Marty is no FFer. It wasn’t so long ago on his ill-fated Eruopean election campaign that he declared himself a proud member of the Party of European Socialists. Of which FF, thankfully, is not a member.

  • chris donnelly

    Imagine were a former vice-chair of Sinn Fein and the party’s last candidate for Europe to join in a call for Adams to go, and at the same time suggest a leadership challenge. Does anyone actually believe this wouldn’t be front page news for the Irish News, Tele and many other papers?

    Urquhart’s piece is but another sorry attempt to deflect attention from difficulties the SDLP are facing, both internally and externally.

    Whilst Durkan may be getting plaudits from many within the media, there is no evidence whatever that the SDLP are set to stage an electoral comeback. Indeed, all the evidence points to a party limping along, losing councillors and party activists whilst searching vainly to find an identity.

  • “Urquhart’s piece is but another sorry attempt to deflect attention from difficulties the SDLP are facing, both internally and externally.” I’m not sure where you’re coming from wiht this Chris – rather than try to deflect attention, I’ve blogged it on my own site.

    Your comparison with what might happen if a former vice chair and european candidate within Sinn Fein were to join and call for Admas to go is a valid point. But I suggest that such a scenario would make headline news around the place because internal dissent within the provisional movement and a rejection of Adams’ strategy would be a very different thing to what’s going on here with Laurel and Hardy.

  • internal dissent within the provisional movement and a rejection of Adams’ strategy would be a very different thing to what’s going on here with Laurel and Hardy

    Maybe you just wish that such a distinction exists, this news can’t be just wished away.

    The stoops obviously have big internal problems.

    I for one hope they are fatal LOL

  • “The stoops obviously have big internal problems.” – only a fanatic or a fool would deny that Chris.

    But that’s a different thing to the story being flogged by DI – namely that there is a leadership crisis. Maybe you, like Teach Basil, ‘just wish that such a crisis exists’.

  • The Devil

    Now if Seamus Mallon comes out on TV and admits to being an undercover Orangeman who also tripled up with the Stickies and MI5 then Durkan may have problems.
    If Brid Rodgers comes on TV and claims that Durkan is forever putting it to her while under the influence, then he may be challenged.

    Other than any of the above and his only problem will be how big his majority will be in Foyle next election, and the only challenge will be if he starts doing The Times Crossword.

  • Fountain of Knowledge

    I urge everybody to pick up daily ireland today. front page reads W**KER. And a picture of Eddie Espie. This is a front page headline. Apparently a member of SDLP youth sent him an email calling him a w**ker and it was read by his son. This is front page news. Bottom of the barrel guys, bottom of the barrel.

  • DMcM

    I think that the biggest problem the SDLP has is that in recent years Sinn Fein has overtaken their vote.
    Party members have reacted to this in different ways. Some blame the leadership for lacking charisma etc. However, sometimes it is not a bad thing to be overtaken in politics. I think it would be a bad thing for the SDLP to be a domineering party in a time of political wilderness. The hardliners always dominate when no progress is being made.
    The fact is quite simple – the hardliners will continue to dominate in times of political uncertainty. The dominance of Sinn Fein and the DUP in elections is clear evidence that there has been very little political progress.
    Lets see what happens when an executive is formed and lets see who will really prove their political worth. My guess is the SDLP, led by Durkan will do very well.
    Waving flags in each others faces will not reduce water charges, or keep open vital healthcare units.
    The journey of a new SDLP will begin when the new executive is formed. I think at that stage we will start to see the worth of the SDLP. This party’s strength is lost until they are allowed to get to work in a working government. The slogan party’s will slowly but surely lose votes as political progress is made.
    The parties that are slowing down political progress are the ones that have the most votes.
    Its kind of ironic – dont you think?

  • Glen Taisie

    The SDLP must use to great effect “the luxury of opposition”.

    The Comprehensive Agreement,and the HAIN-ADAMS legislation prove that Sinn Fein are weak.

  • Tom

    This is all very much a non story. There is no substance to it and there will be no leadership challenge. Two disgruntled former members of the SDLP get their chance to bask in the glow of their own vanities. Only DI could make this into a front page story. The whole thing is quite pitiful really.

  • J Kelly

    This is really interesting that all the stoops can do on this issue is attack the messenger and not the story. It has been claimed that the SDLP moved on policing without any consultation with members and that has caused some issues for leadership, it is also claimed that the sdlp is being run by a small cabal at hq and the clear inference is that political genius Alex Attwood is at the core of these problems. Are these real issues or a figment of imagination.

    I know for 100% fact that Mark Durkan has big problems in Derry. Attwood and Durkan tried to remove Pat Ramsey from the assembly ticket in 2003 and lost while John Tierney a humeite now durkanite got caught in the crossfire. Subsequently Durkan tried to block Shaun Gallagher from the position of Mayor two years back and Pat Ramsey forced the issue and won. A big issue for many of the SDLP old gurad in Derry was the appointment of Damien McAtteer as Durkans election agent it is widely known in Derry that McAtteer has lets say a colourful history and he could have esaily been an election agent or candidate for SF. Theres something about leopard never changing its spots. Durkan and Ramsey dont speak and the party is split down the middle. This the tip of the iceberg and public knowledge in Derry and we are expected to believe that EE and MM is a non story.

    I dont believe for one minute that either of the above are in any way credible leadership candidates but i do believe that there are rumblings and some in the party will be enjoying Durkan discomfort.

    So Tom lets hear the craic you may not be an insider anymore but you have your contacts. Do you think that Allaisdair will challenge Durkan. I know you wont say it but its obvious that you wouldn’t lose much sleep if Durkan fell.

  • Tom

    There have been rumblings within the SDLP for years – its the hallmark of democracy – in SF would have to be a putsch or coup. The SDLP mirrors the structures of the Catholic Church – its very much top down – with a Curia of advisors at the top who are totally at one with the leadership. Durkan’s leadership reflects that of his mentor only with less decisiveness. There is nothing inclusive about the SDLP leadership because under Hume it did not need to be. Perhap now that needs to change. There are some very bright people at the top of the SDLP but they are not very street smart. Durkan and McDonnell are not a bad team – there will be no push for the top job. Politically speaking, Durkan is finding his feet a bit but the pressures from within to do a deal at all costs are huge. If he withstands the blue rinse brigade and their demands – the SDLP may regain some ground. But the intervention of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum is a 24 hour wonder – it should be enjoyed for the joke that it is.

  • Durkanista

    Evryone knows the South Belfast News was only set up to give Maskey a platform prior to the 03 Assembly Elections, when they achieved their goal, the Ormeau Rd office was closed and the scuttled back to Hannahstown. DI is nothing less than a Provo propoganda sheet and frankly I don’t think Durkan will be losing too much sleep over their pathetic attempts to instigate a leadership crisis.

    BTW, when Adams steps down all hell will break loose inside the Shinners over who should succed him. If the Shinners play it smart they’ll pick either Mary Lou or Babs, but my gut tells me we will end up with the culchie MP for Newry and Armagh. Yuck!

  • cookstown voter

    Eddie Espie and Walter Mitty should start their own party, the guy has never even been elected into cookstown council (and he tried three times), he has no credibility in cookstown, why the hell are you people even carrying this bums story. He done a kiss and tell on the sdlp because he was about to be sidelined from the party the following day.

  • theirmoneyisrunningoutfasterthanmembers

    Seems there may not be any challengers left soon as SDLP membership evaporates.

    Espie twists the knife?

    Patricia Lewsley doesn’t even have a valid branch.

    A party in freefall.

  • SDLP screwed?

    Is this story about SDLP membership true?

    Losing many of your voters is unfortunate. Losing a third of your members is careless.

    Why aren’t other media outlets (Slugger O’T?) covering this? Seems like a disaster for most political parties. One that would cause a leadership challenge and hard analysis elsewhere?

    What will Espie reveal next? He seems pissed off and in possession of documents.

  • mark

    Why aren’t Slugger bloggers picking up on this further crisis within the SDLP?

    The one blogger perceived as ‘Republican’ would have the story dismissed as propaganda if they ran it but there are many bloggers here ignoring what seems to be the implosion of the SDLP seemingly revealed by a disgruntled ex/or not-senior member who has hinted at a leadership challenge and states with other former members that the SDLP is in complete disarray destroyed by cabals (often family).

    This and other sites had commentators dismiss the recent DI stories sourced from SDLP members as nonsense. If these membership figures are true the SDLP seems in permanent decline.

    Bad story? About the SDLP? Spin it or ignore it? Just hope the sinner will cover it so it will be dismissed as propaganda?

    Bloggers my arse.

    Sure just ignore it prolific-Pete et al, it doesn’t fit your narrative. (and obvious lack of it when unsuitable to mum’s indoctrinated agenda)

  • harold

    The sdlp had to hire outside companies to put up posters and distribute election literature during the last election.

    At this rate they will have to hire people to stand for them during the next election.

    Mark Durkan will have to go round a few of the recruitment agencies on Tuesday morning.

  • mark

    During the most recent elections Martin Morgan (former Euro candidate, ex-Belfast Mayor and previously a senior SDLP member) had to taxi non-driver Brian Heading SDLP around his small allocated section of Lisburn constituency on election day. Even though he wasn’t a member of the party he worked for a friend knowing he had no SDLP members or sympathisers to support him (yes, this is the guy Durkan abused for lack of commitment). Patricia Lewsley had taken the rest of the manpower to cover her allocation of the area leaving a fellow councillor relying on a guy derided by her party leader. Poor Peter the other Cllr was left with no canvassing in his ward for the entire election, only holding on through respect for him as individual that ignored his inability to develop a party structure during his multiple tenure.

    As they only had four members and three were councillors, people should understand why you don’t even see these people at elections never mind after. Patricia did manage to get the family working hard in the three days prior to the election, fairplay.

    The SDLP aren’t able to provide effective representation even if they found the urge to, they don’t have people willing to do the work for and in the community without a substantial financial reward.

    A party in a sad state. Ap arty billing their figures for advertising shows how little voluntary activists they have available.


    Thanks to Slugger O’Toole for ignoring our party collapse. We expected no less.

    credibility fades

  • kevin

    The sdlp seem so hard pushed to find party activists that Tim Attwood is having to sell the tickets for a dinner they are arranging in Dublin next week.

    Brother Alex is driving the bus down and Patricia Lewsley is doing the disco !!

  • mark


    €200 is a big ask for dinner with Durkan. Especially for a party on the down.

    I still can’t get my head around how quickly they (SDLP) give up the PES (European Socialists) for the embrace of the UEN (FF in Europe) once Hume was booted/sick.

    Seems the Europeanist project was transitory and bs. Like the rest of it.

    Their PES friends, worked by Hume, haven’t shown much commitment to Ireland since he went. Was the PES/Hume/de Rossa funding based on the principle of you only get funds for deprived communities if you vote SDLP? The EU commitment to/or discussion on Ireland has been curtailed by the PES since Hume left and de Rossa took the reigns (the grand European PES/SDLP project run by a disgruntled former IRA man?)

    Hume promised the EU earth. What we get is a former rejected stick getting to influence policy on the north through his endorsement.

    Hume created the space for this commie. He took it. Wonderful SDLP project!

  • MT

    The SDLP have insisted the PES cannot engage with anyone from Northern Ireland if they have a possible Sinn Fein connection. This position was advanced by P deRossa at a group meeting immediately after the SDLP lost their seat and remains in force. If I was a member of the PES I would have left either after the refusal to meet the Finucane/Collusion visitors or the refusal to meet the Irish language/Cultural activists or Peace II funded groups visiting the EP with SF support.

    Shameful and petty. Not what I came to Europe for and not something that’ll get us a penny.

    The SDLP and Irish Labour decide that funding and support for Ireland would die after Hume left and they’ve worked harder on this than fisheries or agriculture or structural funds ………..but I’m boring you now even though its true.

  • Henry94

    There is nothing wrong wth the SDLP that can’t be made worse by getting rid of Mark Durkin.

    To paraphrase Nixon, he’d get a better job but they wouldn’t get a better leader.

  • ingram

    At Least the SDLP have debate and the mechanism to challenge the leadership, can you imagine a hostile challenge to Adams and McGuinness? The British Government would move very quickly to snuff out that threat.