Tight margins against the SDLP…

Suzanne Breen captures a central dilemma of the nationalist fight for votes between the SDLP and Sinn Fein:

“Endorsement of the PSNI has lost Sinn Féin dozens of election foot-soldiers: the people who worked all hours bringing out the party vote. It will also shed hardline support but this could be balanced by new first-time voters and some traditional SDLP supporters now at ease with a more law-abiding Sinn Féin. Gerry Adams huge personal appeal is Sinn Féin’s greatest asset.”[emphasis added]

Elsewhere she notes:

It’s become increasingly bitter between Sinn Féin and the SDLP, especially since the ‘greening’ of Mark Durkan’s party. On issues such as MI5, the SDLP sounds more republican. Durkan’s media performances have improved and people trust him to provide constructive leadership and good government. The SDLP team were more capable negotiators with the British than Sinn Féin but that’s lost on the electorate and the party is still charisma-lite.

It will be a few years at least – and certainly post-Adams – before it can realistically talk of catching Sinn Féin. While its vote should hold and party spirits are high, it has fewer chances of new seats than Sinn Féin.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “Gerry Adams huge personal appeal is Sinn Féin’s greatest asset”

    [try playing the ball CL – moderator]

  • páid

    Breen falls into the common trap of thinking that ‘republicans’ are ‘greener’ than ‘nationalists’.
    This is a lazy shorthand which will increasingly look dated and ropey in the post IRA scenario.

  • Tkmaxx

    There is very little in this.

  • Páid, you make a valid point- after all, what is it to be ‘green’? For instance, if a party says ‘we are for a united Ireland’ but doesn’t present a viable or practicable roadmap to achieve that goal, and another party says ‘we ultimately want a united Ireland, but we believe that by supporting X and Y as a stepping stone to get there, we believe it will expedite the achievement of that goal’, which one is more green? I would suggest that the second one is. That’s why it is essential to get beyond the rhetoric and posturing and look at how the nationalist parties actually intend to achieve reunification- if anything, given the history of the SDLP and SF and the fact that the SDLP’s strategy was always more likely to gain the critical mass of Protestant (and indeed southern) support for reunification, I would say that they have been the more ‘green’ of the two- SF may wave the tricolour at every given opportunity, but has it advanced the effort to bring about a united Ireland? Clearly not.

  • páid

    Agree with the thrust of what you say, El Mat. I have long been of the opinion that (up till lately) violent republicanism was in fact a manifestation of extreme nationalism.

    Occasionally, as in Teebane, the mask slipped.

    There are huge numbers of genuine republicans in the republican movement, I am sure of that, but for many rural Catholics in NI, republicanism, with it’s roots in individual rights, equality, and liberalism is not as close to the heart as the two essential components of Nationalism – blood and soil.

    Republicanism has been used as a code for extreme Nationalism in Ireland (contrast French and American republicanism) for so long that Protestants can be excused for failing to see it’s relevance to them, (it’s their ultimate guarantee of liberty in the longterm) though I suspect the more educated of them will get increasingly curious.

    Now that ‘republicans’ have stopped shooting them.

  • Crataegus


    good points.

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    I think Gerry Adams has become an liability for the republican movement. Right now I don’t consider Sinn Fein a very strong republican party…under the leadership of adams in recent years sinn fein has negotiated away a lot of strength of the republican movement and it was adams who with his words asking the IRA to give up it’s criminality…actually labelled the IRA as criminals. I don’t see true republicans backing adams… and I don’t see him being a big draw any more….

  • JD

    El Mat,

    What are the SDLP’s X and Y to a united Ireland? I have yet to hear their strategy to achieve this.