SDLP forgotten who their enemies are?

Malachi O’Doherty reckons the big mistake made by the SDLP in this campaign is it’s lack of focus on the weak spots of its own rivals. Indeed he reckons that their campaign managers should try to catch Tim Lone’s new play starting at the Lyric on polling night.

Erecting a sign pointing to MI5 in Hollywood was a totally pointless exercise. Why pitch for the vote of the kind of nationalist who frets about securocrats? If the SDLP can scare some away from voting for Sinn Féin, they will not persuade them to vote for themselves instead. They will send them off to vote for dissident Republicans or to abstain. That kind of nationalist doesn’t trust the SDLP to be tougher in its criticism of the police than Sinn Féin.

You have to concede that killing hundreds of RUC members over the years constitutes a credible record of opposition.

The other mistake the SDLP makes is in constantly attacking the DUP. Do they seriously think that any DUP voter is going to be so enlightened by one of Mark Durkan’s aphorisms that he or she will switch to the SDLP? It isn’t going to happen. The enemy is Sinn Féin and if Sinn Féin is canvassing on the promise of United Ireland, then the SDLP should confidently swing the other way, trusting that its support base doesn’t really want it. At least not now.

  • Briso

    “The enemy is Sinn Féin and if Sinn Féin is canvassing on the promise of United Ireland, then the SDLP should confidently swing the other way, trusting that its support base doesn’t really want it. At least not now.”

    That’s a cracker!

  • SuperSoupy

    Cracker? It is some of the weakest political analysis I’ve read.

    If the sole point of the SDLP is to beat SF then Malachi should suggest the logical step – merger with the DUP.

  • Well the sole point of Sinn Fein is to beat the SDLP by becoming the SDLP, so maybe it should merge with the DUP.

    Makes as much sense.

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    [i]The other mistake the SDLP makes is in constantly attacking the DUP. Do they seriously think that any DUP voter is going to be so enlightened by one of Mark Durkan’s aphorisms that he or she will switch to the SDLP?[/i]

    Malachy,
    That’s not why the SDLP are attacking the DUP. It’s appealing to their own sectarian base. It fits with the rest of your thesis rather than that quoted above.

  • mook

    Yes, what a bloody stupid comment. Do you think Paisley has been ranting on at Sinn Fein in the hope that they will have a road to Damascus conversion, see the light, love the Union and vote DUP?

  • m

    Malachi O’Doherty is going off on one and like so many times before, he is missing the point completely. Does he not understand the role played by opposition parties?

  • Seamus Deery

    Malachi’s blinding hatred for Sinn fein has led him to write one of the worst pieces of political advice ever put down on paper. Yeah Malachi , you are an amazing political analyst, a play will change how tens of thousands of Nationalists would vote. WAKE UP Malachi!! What are you on????
    Please give him a job as your advisor Mark and you could kiss goodbye to most of your electorate!!!!

  • Malachi O’Doherty

    Briso, my reading of the mood of the Catholic communnity which I grew up in and retain strong connections with is that it does not hunger for a united Ireland. It cherishes the dream, but that’s a different thing.

    Yes, Gonzo and Supersoupy, thanks for your suggestion. It should not be surprising that the primary goal of any political party at election time is to defeat it’s main rival. Sinn Fein is the main rival of the SDLP, therefore the SDLP should attack it with vigour on all its weaknesses. It’s what Blair does when he fights the tories.

    That doesn’t mean that the SDLP should be amenable to surrendering every principle. But the main reason it shouldn’t merge with the DUP – in case you haven’t thought of it – is that most Catholics wouldn’t then vote for it. Where does it actually disagree with the DUP? It is after all hoping to get into a coalition with it.

    Damian has a point; attacking the DUP pleases the sectarian base. It’s about that more than the delusion that votes can be won from them. Well I could imagine an SDLP strategy made up of a determination to wipe the floor with Sinn Fein, reinforced by an appeal for sectarian credibility acquired from insulting the DUP. But attacking the DUP for sectarian brownie points and trusting mostly to those brownie points to get in the votes , even if workable, isn’t decent.

    Mook: The DUP doesn’t attack Sinn Fein to get votes from Sinn Fein, right. It does it for credibility with the base, much as Damien suggest the SDLP does. Point taken.

    I sense that the DUP needs that type of credibility more than the SDLP does.

    The SDLP has to be either different from Sinn Fein or merge with Sinn Fein, give us a choice or die.

    And yes, Seamus, I am easily refuted by someone exaggerating an aside into the core argument. I could do the same to you.

  • kensei

    “Briso, my reading of the mood of the Catholic communnity which I grew up in and retain strong connections with is that it does not hunger for a united Ireland. It cherishes the dream, but that’s a different thing.”

    Odd then, that when the SDLP went with “Post Nationalism” they got tanked. Your thesis has already been tested and disproved.

    Anyone can also assert that people would run away scared form a UI if it looked likely, because it is an untestable theory. I like the way you add if the referendum did come about now they might vote for it because they didn’t think it would happen. You win either way!

  • if Sinn Féin is canvassing on the promise of United Ireland, then the SDLP should confidently swing the other way, trusting that its support base doesn’t really want it.

    Isn’t it the reality that moderate nationalists have become much more confident about the idea of a united Ireland as a result of the peace process and the economic growth in the Republic?

    I would have thought that the SDLP was well-placed to benefit from this. They have certainly held up better since they dropped the ‘post-nationalism’.

    It can’t do any harm when you have the Irish Finance Minister visiting your backyard to announce major investments in the north. What should they say: “Don’t bother Brian, you can’t outgreen Sinn Fein.”

  • Kevin Bell

    Malachy, I think your missing the point of the SDLP, or any party with a goal/principle. It argues for united Ireland because it is a core principle and a pressing ambition of the party, not because they think it will get them more votes, to change this message would turn the party into something it’s not.
    Beating Sinn Féin isn’t the ambition of the SDLP, achieving an Ireland united through consent is, abandoning this ambition even in the short term would be a cynical move in the extreme.

  • Dougal

    Malachi,

    With due respect given, I tink you are talking crap.

    The SDLP does not need to give up the goal of a UI in the hope that “its support base doesn’t really want it

    “The SDLP has to be either different from Sinn Fein or merge with Sinn Fein…”

    Rubbish.

    Through out history ireland has always had a moderate voice. It was never the bomb’n’bullet alone. It would be wrong and stupid for the SDLP to try and “out-green” SF but equally, SF will never succeed in becoming more “moderate” than the SDLP.

    The SDLP don’t need to join the with SF. SF need to apoligise to the Irish nation for the support they gave to those who committed acts of treason against their fellow countrymen.

    I think you need to get back to the books Malachi and learn more about Irish Republicanism than is taught by SF and the Provos.

  • lib2016

    The ideal of all republicans I’ve ever met is not a takeover from Dublin, still less a continuation of the failed Northern entity. They all, both Sinn Fein and SDLP, want something better than what we had under British rule.

    The SDLP has become more nationalist because that’s what the voters have demanded and because it makes sense. An over-seas colony is always going to take secondplace in the mindset of London politicans – that’s why Northern industrialists go along when Bertie and Mary visit China or wherever.

    Not because they want to wrap themselves in a green flag but because it’s good for business.

  • kensei

    “Through out history ireland has always had a moderate voice. It was never the bomb’n’bullet alone. It would be wrong and stupid for the SDLP to try and “out-green” SF but equally, SF will never succeed in becoming more “moderate” than the SDLP. ”

    This is nonsense. If McDonald’s can sell salads, then either of those parties can become whatever they like, given enough time and determination.

    Simply because they have the same goal, a United Ireland, doesn’t mean that how they think we get there or what the united island looks like is the same. It is perfectly possible to offer different visions of the same goal. That is the future for both parties. Finding their own vision and trying to expand the base.

  • All academic really. A united Ireland is not attainable in this generation. Good relations and cross border co operation are and the more the merrier.

    If the SDLP is in hock to a deluded community, then that’s a problem, but I don’t think it is.

  • SuperSoupy

    This gets better. In Malachi’s haste to defend himself from the laughter his advice to the SDLP descends to describing their voters as ‘deluded’.

    I don’t think they’ll be taking your advice with that level of contempt.

  • Can’t agree with this analysis whatsoever.

    “You have to concede that killing hundreds of RUC members over the years constitutes a credible record of opposition.”

    It isn’t about simply taking potshots at random peelers. It’s about highlighting the specific wrongs carried out my specific persons and parts of the RUC organisation, hopefully with a view to achieving justice. This ain’t the ’80s.

    “The other mistake the SDLP makes is in constantly attacking the DUP. Do they seriously think that any DUP voter is going to be so enlightened by one of Mark Durkan’s aphorisms that he or she will switch to the SDLP?”

    Who said anything about trying to win over DUP voters? The SDLP attacks DUP ‘policies’ because they are the anathema of everything that the SDLP believes in, and it is the duty of any democratic nationalist to tackle the arch-bigotry and anti-Irish attitude of such a party. It’s not about winning over their voters- it’s about standing up for what you believe in.

    “It isn’t going to happen.”

    Er, we know!

    “The enemy is Sinn Féin and if Sinn Féin is canvassing on the promise of United Ireland, then the SDLP should confidently swing the other way, trusting that its support base doesn’t really want it.”

    SF may be the ‘enemy’ as regards the fact that both parties are chasing the same votes, but that does not mean that everything that SF believes in is in conflict with the beliefs of the SDLP- after all, the both identify as nationalist parties. As regards the United Ireland issue, if the SDLP ‘swung the other’ way, that would make it a unionist party- the SDLP is not a unionist party. On the contrary, the SDLP believes its analysis of the national question is better than SF’s, hence North South Makes Sense, engagement with the main southern parties, etc. SF may promise a united Ireland, but rather than allow their uber-nationalism to put the SDLP off, it merely spurs it forwards to achieve a better united Ireland.

    Just because SF is moving to occupy SDLP policy ground doesn’t mean that the latter should run away and invert its policies and become nouveau Alliance- it merely means that it has to box smarter to show that its ability to implement those policies is better.

  • Dougal

    kenseim

    What do you disagree with in my post? (save me a predicatbale ‘all of it’ kinda reply!)

    Do you believe there was a time WITHOUT a moderate voice arguing for Irish national interest?

    Do you think it was once just a bout the bomb ‘n’ bullet?

    Face it ken, people look at SF and see a party copying the SDLP and trying to excuse the horrors of their past.

  • Northsider

    It seems the subtext of Malachi’s piece is that if the SDLP were to merge with another party and assume their political clothing it should be the Alliance party.

    That is what I’ve read into this.

    As a voter who fluctuates between SDLP and SF (Margaret Walsh is getting my first preference this time round) I can honestly say that if the SDLP ever decided to discard the ideal of a United Ireland, I wouldn’t even consider voting for them.

    As another contributor to this thread pointed out, the ‘post nationalism’ experiment was disaster and was thankfully dropped.

  • Token Dissent

    It would be foolish in the extreme for the SDLP to stop attacking the DUPers. I do think however that the party’s attempts to out green the Shinners are ill-concieved and electorally self-defeating.

    Whilst I disagree with some of Malchi’s analysis, I have total respect for his principles.

    I say to Malachi, and all writers who are brave enough to be critical of the community they were born into – keep fighting against the pricks!

  • kensei

    “What do you disagree with in my post? (save me a predicatbale ‘all of it’ kinda reply!)”

    The oft repeated but bollocks idea that “the SDLP cannot be more green than SF, but SF canot be more moderate.”. Either party could go in either direction given determination and enough time.

    “Do you believe there was a time WITHOUT a moderate voice arguing for Irish national interest? ”

    I dislike the term “moderate” anyway? Seems arbitrary. There have always been Constitutional Nationalist voices in Ireland, yes. They haven’t always been right.

    “Face it ken, people look at SF and see a party copying the SDLP and trying to excuse the horrors of their past. ”

    And then they vote for them!

  • I hope at least that anyone who stumbles across the pile of vitriol and misrepresentations and ad hominem nastiness above will at least be tempted to read the actual article and my comments. There’s more on my website at http://www.malachiodoherty.com.

    I said I didn’t think that the SDLP was in hock to a deluded community and this gets represented as me saying that they are.
    Well a fine new experience writing for Slugger. I’ve been slugged.

  • Oh yeah, and ‘lucrative’. That was a good one.

    The Belfast Telegraph paid £100 for a column.

    If I’d wanted lucrative I’d have gone and been a claims lawyer.

  • Pete Baker
  • All academic really. A united Ireland is not attainable in this generation. Good relations and cross border co operation are and the more the merrier.

    That looks like absolutist logic to me. Even if you assume its true, Just because you can’t get 100 per cent of what you want, isn’t a reason not to push the limits of what you can get.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Admin

    If my posts are to be deleted, the least you could do would be edit the posts that criticise my now-invisible contributions.

    Malachi: if it’s any consolation, I was the victim of an especially nasty “slugging” recently, and by a pretty naked sock puppet at that, and the administrators did a hell of a lot less to protect me than they are doing for you.

  • Pete Baker

    Billy

    If you tell me where the offence took place, I’ll have a look at it.

    We’re not quite omniscient, you know.

    But that’s not an excuse to breach the very simple commenting policy we have – it’s not about protecting anyone, except for Slugger and the possibility of a civil discussion of the topic.. and you’ve been commenting here long enough to know that.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I know Pete, I know.

  • SuperSoupy

    Admin,

    Come off it.

    There is nothing wrong with pointing out Malachi refering to a ‘Deluded Community’ was pretty offensive to some.

    He didn’t expand on his argument just made a sweeping generalisation.

    I’m not playing the man but dealing directly with his comment.

    I’ve been out and assume this thread got heated but try and show a little sense.

  • My remark was: There would be a problem if the SDLP was in hock to a deluded community [ie, one that seriously believed that a United Ireland was attainable or desirable in a space of time that makes it politically relevant] and that I believe it is not.

    That not refers to the state of being in hock and to the community being deluded.

    The abuse that bothered me was the misrepresentation and the lies.

    I am not nor ever have been an adviser to David Trimble.
    I do not have a lucrative line in being a token taig.

    Nor am I actually as unpopular as some people seem to relish claiming. The Sinn Fein canvasser who came to my door asked my wife if I was in and hung about for a natter about old times for about ten minutes.

    Nor do I seek to be an adviser to Mark. The article was a piece of journalism. It did its job even if Mark never read it.

    And funnily enough, when I come on Slugger under a pseudonymn I don’t seem to strike people as eccentric at all.

  • SuperSoupy

    Admin,

    My email address is real, you may well have my personal one – can you drop me a line to let me know what is wrong with addressing a comment I perceive as offensive? The comment is still there? Why can’t I question it?

    Cheers, I honestly don’t see your logic.

  • SuperSoupy

    Malachi,

    With all due to respect it seems unfair you are allowed to defend a remark (raising it again) and others have mentioning how they felt over it deleted.

    Pity that. You get to clarify while the questions that may have caused a clarification deleted.

    As my questions were addressed to your comments: do you think they should have been deleted? Did you feel personally attacked? Or was the content the issue?

  • SuperSoupy

    This is becoming surreal. Take about admin gone mad.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Malachi

    “[ie, one that seriously believed that a United Ireland was attainable or desirable in a space of time that makes it politically relevant.”

    You have just defined the nationalist community. And you have defined it as delusional.

    Fair enough. You’re entitled to throw insults at whomever you like. Keep slinging.

    [Play the ball, Billy – edited moderator]

  • slug

    Billy, I’d say that people particularly seem to not like those that are perceived to have ‘crossed sides’ and make critical remarks. Billy Leonard for example does not annoy me AT ALL. He is never critical of the unionist community. Whereas that lady from Londonderry, who has written a book “Ulster Protestants: An Orrible People” is a tad annoying because she presents herself as a great expert on protestants.

  • slug

    Actually I think the title is “Ulster Protestants: An Unpleasant People”

  • SuperSoupy

    Malachi,

    You have raised two very different issues and I disagree with both of them.

    Firstly you stated that many SDLP supporters don’t actually want Irish unity and to exploit this vote the SDLP should drop it as an issue.

    Secondly you say those aspiring to Irish unity are delusional.

    The first point is merely an opinion an unsubstantiated one.

    The second implies an aspiration is delusional.

    For those that aspire, either within the SDLP or SF, because they don’t get jam today doesn’t mean they don’t work for it tomorrow.

    While many southern parties did not promote Irish unity and the SDLP pretty much ignored it during conflict (as it seemed the battleground for Republicanism) the peace process has meant that all Nationalists can colonise this ground.

    While the southern establishment will not promote a unity agenda on SF’s terms, as they see the party as an electoral threat and don’t wish to hand them gains, they are willing to engage and support unity supporting debates and agendas promoted by the SDLP.

    Nationalism in its various hues now finds a space to support unity on terms it feels comfortable with and all are doing it because they see benefits in the long run.

    Your argument seems to be just because there won’t be jam tomorrow we shouldn’t grow strawberry plants today.

    You see a ‘Deluded Community’ some of us see aspiration across a community an aspiration that transcends party loyalty and occasionally the border. A aspiration that some think may be delivered in differing timeframes (from one to man decades).

    Your advice to the SDLP is to stop being part of a growing and confident aspiration preferring some undefined upper middle class don’t care vote that I don’t think exists and your dismissal of those that do aspire with a contemptuous ‘deluded communities’.

    Lets hope this makes it past the censor.

    Best,

    SS

    (I still find the deluded term arrogant and offensive btw)

  • slug

    I think Malachi may be right that some SDLP voters aren’t that worried about a UI. I know some of them.

    However the SDLP is in a battle for Sinn Fein so it has to focus on the median nationalist voter, who is to some extent concerned about a UI and may be put off if the SDLP is not strong enough in this sense.

  • Henry94

    Irony in politics is just hypocrisy with panache.

    -Mark Durkan on Questions and Answers tonight defying calls to take the aphorisms out of Irish politics.

  • Rapunsel

    Malachi makes some interesting points.

    He’s right I believe that most nationalists don’t want a united Ireland, well not in the sense of a parliament based in Dublin without regional autonomy. Does anyone believe that if the Ni assembly can be made to fucntion that the parties and the people would want to give up that regional power in the future. In a functioning assembly , over time the demand is likely to be for additional powers such as tax raising etc

    Secondly the SDLP can’t and won’t appeal to voters outside the catholic community other than as a tactical vote in certain constituencies. All of the main parties here are sectarian and aim to maximise thir vote within their own community. Unfortunately for the SDLP , having worked so hard to bring SF into the political process, the SDLP now finds that they cannot attack SF on the most significant difference between them; the fact that noone ever killed anybody on behalf of the SDLP and as a result works to try and outgreen them instead. Perhaps their strategists believe the time is not right for that attack , but will it ever be. We will eventually be moving to a place where past violence is consigned to the history books and where people don’t make the explicit link between past and present ( I don’t believe that process happens naturally but in itself it is manufactured) , just look at the current complexion of southern politics. The time for SDLP to make a distinction with SF in relation to support for political violence has to be now and it has to be vigorous, it should have been made in the context of truth over IRA and state violence and it should have been unrelenting. I’m not an SDLP supporter but think it fair to say they sacrificed party growth and electoral success for a greater good, the Shinners will never sacrifice party success for a greater good

  • Comrade Stalin

    I thought Malachi’s comments were perfectly reasonable. Some people here seriously need to grow up and act like adults. As Malachi points out, I get the impression people are reacting due to the fact that his name is known.

    On a totally unrelated note, blimey, but youtube’s brilliant. I’ve decided to add my first party political broadcast. Comments welcome.

  • SuperSoupy

    Malachi,

    Do you have a sense of humour?

    “Nor am I actually as unpopular as some people seem to relish claiming”

    Self-praise is no recommendation. proverb

  • Observer

    Could have sworn there was another post in there, giving a reasonably sound description of Mr. O’Doherty’s role.
    Censored?

  • Souther Observer

    ,Actually I think the title is “Ulster Protestants: An Unpleasant People”
    It was ‘Ulster Protestants,an unsettled people’

  • SuperSoupy

    Observer,

    The Mod went mad in protection of Malachi earlier. I had to write an essay to challenge one simple phrase.

    But Sluggers always gives journos free reign when they appear.

    I’d get deleted if I said it was due to the penis envy.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    [consider it to be a yellow card – edited moderator]

  • SuperSoupy

    I absolutely agree with the moderators actions on this thread and agree that any flippant or derogatory remarks should be removed regardless of what Malachi says and how it is perceived.

    He is a journalist and deserves your/our respect.

    I certainly do not agree that ‘The Devil’ should ever have a comment removed ever because that would be an abuse of freedom of speech and piss-taking.

  • SuperSoupy

    Malachi,

    Another point on your article:

    You never said why we should see the play but you did inform us of a scene where Adams is dismembered.

    No critique. No analysis of the play or plot but you want to tell us about that one bit.

    Writing to the audience? (Newsletter)

  • Roisin

    [i]The Belfast Telegraph paid £100 for a column.

    Posted by Malachi O’Doherty on Mar 05, 2007 @ 08:06 PM[/i]

    You get what you pay for, looks like they got their money’s worth.

  • The Dubliner

    “The referendum idea is daft. It could rouse sectarian tensions to no good result.” – Malachi O’Doherty

    Why do you seek to depict a political issue as a sectarian issue? Isn’t that misrepresentation of the issue simply propaganda that is designed to serve a political agenda that is pro-union?

    The proposal to hold a referendum to decide the constitutional issue is at the crux of nationalist support for the GFA, so why then do you think it reasonable or fair to seek to deny nationalists an opportunity to exercise the aspect of the agreement that is most important to them by the dismal expedient of attempting to dismiss politics as sectarianism? Are all those who supported the GFA now to be dismissed by those who are pro-union as sectarian by virtue of simply supporting the political agreement or calling for the implementation of it?

    Why do you think it is sectarian to argue in favour of a united Ireland but that it is not sectarian to argue in favour of a United Kingdom, when both arguments serve the respective sects? Do you not see how logically inconsistent your claim is? Well, you do see that it is illogical; and that is why you carefully phrased your propaganda to allow you to deny making the claim i.e. you will say that you did not say that a referendum should never be held or that a referendum is a sectarian chant, but that it could create dissent and would most likely not be successful. The problem with that rationale of object is that there will never be a time to call a referendum when it will not create dissent (for such is the nature of politics) or when the outcome will present “no good result” to one side or the other. Ergo, your objection is null and void.

    Pro-union contributors to the media will adopt the tactic of telling readers in subtle and sublinimal ways why they should focus on local political issues and forget about the constitutional issue, hoping that will all come to pass by in due course. Maybe it will. The pro-union propagandists certainly have a huge advantage in their control of the media. Black propagandists (i.e. Catholics who are unionist but pose as nationalist) have always worked wonders.

    By the way, the chapter of your book ‘The Trouble with Guns’ and the prologue to it that is available on CAIN is an excellent read.

  • Observer

    SS
    I don’t contribute much to this site, but it seems you can say what you like about Sinn Fein, but woe betide you if you dare challenge a journalist.
    Funny hand shakes?
    Mr O’Doherty’s piece was partisan drivel. The fact that someone pays him to write this stuff is even more appalling than the content.
    I don’t think it’s out of order to inform him of this fact.
    How else is he to know that he should try harder?
    Christ! I’m gonna be moderated!

  • The Dubliner

    Observer, I don’t think I’ve been ‘moderated’ yet, despite a fondness for ranting. If it happens, it will almost be like standing side-by-side with protesters on some picket or strike… the solidarity with my fellow martyrs in this thread sounds so working class that I’m quite looking forward to the experience. Although, I don’t think my post will be censored since I showed that the logic that Malachi O’Doherty gave for not having a referendum at this time is valid (invalid) at all times; and that, therefore, it is tantamount to a politically partisan, pro-union declaration that no referendum on reunification should ever be held. Other points were equally well supported (takes bow).

    Journalists like to think that their opinions are more valid than others. It’s the narcissistic aspect that manifests itself in a penchant for self-aggrandisement and self-importance… and it serves a commercial purpose of promoting the fiction that people need to purchase the product in which the opinions are proffered in order to be kept ‘informed.’ It’s also good practice for the propagandist to convince others that he knows the truth and they merely know the lie.

    As for Malachi O’Doherty, there is a remarkable and frank passage from his book that is perhaps relevant to his sensitivity here:

    “And I felt small and humiliated. Intimidation works: it makes you timid. I have known this since my schooldays. Anyone who ever said, ‘I’ll wipe that silly grin off your face, O’Doherty’, usually did. Violence awakens the self-accuser. It sets your mind to absolving the abuser and to finding flaws in yourself that explain his behaviour. And in that state of mind – as you do – I asked myself if I was wrong. I don’t feel that every turn of my life that directed me away from joining the IRA is to my credit. I have been pulled from my house and kicked down through the garden by a soldier. I saw that soldier standing in our living room screaming back at my mother who was screaming at him, she in her nightie, he in a uniform with a rifle and a blackened face. I had been stupid. I was drunk and blew a whistle out the window to alert the neighbourhood that this man and his men were crawling through our garden. I should have had more sense. He kicked the door in. Why did I not resolve to kill him or his kind afterwards? Was it because I was wiser and could grasp the larger context, or was it just because I had a job to go to the next day? Was it because I had a perverse and squirming obsequious streak in me that would own up to my own awfulness and defer to authority rather than accept the burden of knowing that some people should have their power taken away from them?

    After my encounter with Storey, I walked down the Falls Road feeling I had hacked at my own roots, deserted my own people to violence and disgrace, even joined in berating them, all for a failure to remember where I came from and to identify with what they had suffered.

    Next day I pulled myself together. Isn’t it awesome how a fright will shake your convictions?”

  • Comrade Stalin

    SuperSoupy, if you don’t like Slugger’s moderation then please go away and stop whining. Slugger is under no obligation and makes no pretence to providing an unmoderated free speech zone.

    The Dubliner quoted Malachi:

    “The referendum idea is daft. It could rouse sectarian tensions to no good result.” – Malachi O’Doherty

    Here’s where I disagree. The DUP and SF both wanted an election, as it would provide them with respective victories within their own sectarian tribal domains. Referenda are somewhat simpler, and, as in 1998, do not fall neatly into tribal arguments.

  • I Wonder

    “Journalists like to think that their opinions are more valid than others. It’s the narcissistic aspect that manifests itself in a penchant for self-aggrandisement and self-importance”

    And of course, bloggers and commentators here aren’t in any way like that… Do you “do irony”?

  • I don’t think Soupy is quite as scary as Bobby Storey, unless …. Omigod!

  • I Wonder

    Keep up the good work Malachi: thought-provoking, humourous, insightful and without the hypocrisy associated with your fellow contributor to H&M…ooops! 😉

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Dubliner

    No, the “constitutional question” is actually a sectarian one, not a political one.

    If you’re brought up Catholic, you’re brought up to be Irish and to support Irish unity. If you’re brought up Protestant, you’re brought up to be British and to support the Union.

    There are some fascinating exceptions in later life (Malachi may well be one), but they are very, very limited.

    Political arguments, on the other hand, are subject to rational argument and to “swing” (i.e. the balance of options vary over time).

    But since 1994, 1969, or 1921 have we seen any marked move among a large group of Catholics to support the Union, or among a large group of Protestants to support Irish unity?

    No. Because it’s not a political argument.

    That is why a referendum would be pointless and divisive. And that is why if Nationalists want Irish unity, they basically have to stop being Nationalist, and instead start canvassing beyond the Chapel.

  • Nevin

    Here’s the MO’D link – minus the additional ‘period’:

    http://www.malachiodoherty.com/

  • Dubliner, I broadly agree with you.

    I am not a unionist in the sense that I could not envisage myself voting for a unionist party other than for tactical reasons. Unionism represents many things which have no appeal for me, an attachment to royalty for a start.
    It is possible to be of a nationalist background, vote SDLP, feel at home in that context and still conclude that a united Ireland is not a desirable outcome in any feasible future, in my lifetime anyway, and I’m 56.
    It is also possible to observe that most catholics/nationalists (ghastly terms) show no restless hunger for a united Ireland. There is a very big difference between the hankering for a united Ireland that you hear (rarely) in Belfast and, say, the passion of Palestinians for a restoration of a stolen homeland. Right?

    So there must be space within which an SDLP voter can express a contentment with the border – for the long time being – without being assumed to have switched allegiance to another tribal community.

    There are no ‘Catholic’ unionists because no ‘Catholic’ could be comfortable with the cultural trappings of unionism. That doesn’t mean that there are not many who would be aghast at the prospect of a united Ireland in the morning.

    Forgive my use of terms like Catholic and Nationalist when neither of them actually mean what they mean here. Maybe Irish is the proper word. I am Irish but I voted for the GFA on the understanding that we were making a long term compact with our British neighbours to put constitutional change on the back burner so that we could get on with other things.

  • Kevin Bell

    Malachi if you voted to “put constitutional change on the back burner,” that pretty much makes you a unionist, though an Irish unionist.

  • Then it also makes John Hume a unionist.

  • GavBelfast

    Kevin, how does it?

    Anyway, the constitutional question is said, by many, including by Bertie Ahern and senior cabinet colleagues, to have been dealt with, or at least parked for a good long while.

    Anyone else think there are a good number of people in this part of the world who enjoy being/feeling actively nationalist who would be bored if the reality they espouse came about?

    In a similar vein, loyalists enjoy espousing their loyalism in a way that “fellow Brits” simply don’t do and that loyalists wouldn’t do (and would miss doing) if this was as British as Finchley?

    It’s hard to explain, as perhaps I’m showing now, but a lot of people would get bored without a scrap, and on here that sometimes reflects itself in the abuse, insults, trolling, etc, etc.

  • George

    Malachi,
    “It is possible to be of a nationalist background, vote SDLP, feel at home in that context and still conclude that a united Ireland is not a desirable outcome in any feasible future, in my lifetime anyway, and I’m 56.”

    Then you would probably be better off voting Alliance as the SDLP say they are working towards what would be “not a desirable outcome” for you at your stage in life.

    “So there must be space within which an SDLP voter can express a contentment with the border – for the long time being – without being assumed to have switched allegiance to another tribal community.”

    I don’t like the word “contentment”, it conjures up stasis and resistance to change.

    I understand that for you, approaching retirement in a couple of years etc. ( I don’t mean that as any kind of jibe), stasis is the least worst option but for the younger majority it’s more akin to a never-ending prison sentence.

    I would prefer if you used “acceptance”. I accept Fianna Fáil and the PDs in power because they have been elected, doesn’t mean I have to be content about it.

    They might be in power for another generation if I do nothing about it. You have to start somewhere. You can’t write off radical change for a generation as you appear to be doing.

    The whole wonderful thing about radical change is that it often happens when least expected.

    “That doesn’t mean that there are not many who would be aghast at the prospect of a united Ireland in the morning.”

    Could be but then they shouldn’t support parties that are looking to achieve this very aim.

    It seems you want to sit on the fence rather than jump onto what could be very uneven ground as you see nothing in this for you.

    “I am Irish but I voted for the GFA on the understanding that we were making a long term compact with our British neighbours to put constitutional change on the back burner so that we could get on with other things.”

    That’s not my understanding of what was agreed.

    My understanding is that it was agreed that if a majority want to remain in the union, then all will peacefully abide by that decision.

    If a majority want to leave, then the union ends and all will peacefully abide by that decision.

    I don’t recall any option to “do nothing for a generation” being on the agenda.

    Now is the beginning of the peaceful battle of minds and ideologies, not the time to put things on the back burner.

    If anything we should be heating the debate up because over the last decades rational discussions were few and far between.

  • kensei

    “It is possible to be of a nationalist background, vote SDLP, feel at home in that context and still conclude that a united Ireland is not a desirable outcome in any feasible future, in my lifetime anyway, and I’m 56.”

    It is an incoherent and inconsistent position. If your thesis was true the Alliance would do better, not withstanding said SDLP near collapse over “post nationalism”.

    And if your thesis is right, it isn’t the SDLP, a party apparent committed to a UI, that needs to change. It’s the UUP.

    “It is also possible to observe that most catholics/nationalists (ghastly terms) show no restless hunger for a united Ireland. There is a very big difference between the hankering for a united Ireland that you hear (rarely) in Belfast and, say, the passion of Palestinians for a restoration of a stolen homeland. Right?”

    Wrong. Did you miss the troubles or something. The comparison also belies a lot of contextual and cultural differences. The Union, however shit, is also a lot more bearable the appalling situation the Palestinians must put up with.

    “So there must be space within which an SDLP voter can express a contentment with the border – for the long time being – without being assumed to have switched allegiance to another tribal community.”

    No, then they shouldn’t vote SDLP as the SDLP a pro-UI party.

    “There are no ‘Catholic’ unionists because no ‘Catholic’ could be comfortable with the cultural trappings of unionism. That doesn’t mean that there are not many who would be aghast at the prospect of a united Ireland in the morning.”

    Why do they vote for pro-UI parties? Why does the Alliance do appallingly in Nationalist constituencies? Why did the SDLP take a big hit for post Nationalism? Actual reality contradicts what you are saying.

    “Maybe Irish is the proper word. I am Irish but I voted for the GFA on the understanding that we were making a long term compact with our British neighbours to put constitutional change on the back burner so that we could get on with other things.”

    As pointed out above, that wasn’t what was agreed, or otherwise the GFA wouldn’t have happened.

  • A request for further information:

    When did the SDLP take a big hit for Post Nationalism?

    The votes that rallied round Sinn Fein, at the expense of the SDLP, in the 90s and after can not be explained in terms of their policy on a united Ireland so much as on their promotion of the peace process.

    Actions speak louder than words, and SF opted for an internal settlement with cross border trimmings, and few in the ‘nationalist’ community complained about them doing that.

    It was when Sinn Fein adopted an essentially partitionist – for the time being – policy that its vote rose.

  • kensei

    “When did the SDLP take a big hit for Post Nationalism?

    Actions speak louder than words, and SF opted for an internal settlement with cross border trimmings, and few in the ‘nationalist’ community complained about them doing that.”

    It was always sold as a step on the road to a United Ireland.

    “It was when Sinn Fein adopted an essentially partitionist – for the time being – policy that its vote rose.”

    So – choice between 2 parties supporting roughly the same things. One is strongly pro-UI, the other “post-Nationalist”. Who came out on top again? Has the SDLP’s vote improved since they went a bit more “green”?

    How’s the Alliance vote doing in Nationalist areas, again?

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    Malachi,

    I agree with you that the SDLP did not take a hit for their position on Post Nationalism. To be honest I’m not sure of most Nationalists were aware of the concept, never mind what it means.

    Sinn Fein’s rise can be accredited to, I believe, their more effective organisation, the sympathy vote won from the begrudging treatment by Unionists and elements of the British establishment since the beginning of the peace process and their opening up of ‘new avenues of struggle’ for example, the marching issue and the Derry name-change issue.

    In opening up these ‘new avenues of struggle’ they played the ethnic card and were able to put themselves forward as the primary defenders of Nationalist interests against the British and the Unionists. I think the marching issue was a major play for them.

    They were also particularly effective at council level, pushing ethnically charged motions, such as the Derry name change, flags and emblems, Irish language promotion and playing this very well in the media.

    I believe some in the SDLP recognised this and sought to emulate it, with woeful results. The ‘Stop the 2 Ians’ campaign was disgraceful coming from the party who have maintained a certain dignity for such a long time.

    If the SDLP want to push their republican ideals they would be better off tackling the gross sectarianism within our own community. How can we persuade Protestants to join us in building a new nation together on the island if we are still embroiled in a squalid, sectarian conflict with them?

    Rather than trying to emulate the sectarianism of Sinn Fein they should be highlighting it. They need to rediscover the nature and power of nonviolence.

    Republicans can’t stop at Stormont and only the way we can move on from it is by offering Protestants a viable option to the Union. Anti-Protestant sectarianism has got to go.

  • Actions speak louder than words, and SF opted for an internal settlement with cross border trimmings, and few in the ‘nationalist’ community complained about them doing that.

    If you’re going to argue that either nationalist party has effectively abandoned a united Ireland, you need to show that there was some other strategy they could have followed that would have made unity more likely that they chose not to adopt.

    Would SF walking away from the peace process or the Good Friday Agreement have made a united Ireland more likely?

  • susan

    Malachi, I’ve more than once admired your ability to hit a deserving nail squarely on the head in the past, but I was confused and even angered by your initial piece yesterday. I find your plain-spoken post #9 on page 3 here far more useful and engaging, although I don’t share your comfort with the border. One difficulty I had with your piece yesterday was that by withholding your personal experience and preference, your prescription for the SDLP seemed too clinical and detached, almost as though you were advising on the care and feeding of salt-water tropicals. I was also scratching my head over this passage:

    “A family of loony dissidents kidnaps the Sinn Féin leader and dismembers the kneecapper in chief. It’s as well for Adams that the polls will be closed before the first audiences come out from the premier on Wednesday night.

    The SDLP would learn something from that play about how to attack their chief political rivals.”

    It sounded more as though you were calling out Dessie O’Hare than offering workable strategy for Durkan et. al.

    But when you write, “I am not a unionist in the sense that I could not envisage myself voting for a unionist party other than for tactical reasons. Unionism represents many things which have no appeal for me, an attachment to royalty for a start…..
    There are no ‘Catholic’ unionists because no ‘Catholic’ could be comfortable with the cultural trappings of unionism. That doesn’t mean that there are not many who would be aghast at the prospect of a united Ireland in the morning” I understand exactly what you mean, and why. That said, I still long to hear from you not so much what you are against, but what it is you are for.

    I have dear friends who grew up at the height of the Troubles in the heart of the Troubles who favour a devolved government as the most desirable outcome for the time being, and one enormous reason is the hypocrisy and corruption they observe in the South.

    Personally, since the early days of the first ceasefire I have hoped for and looked for the day when the SDLP and SF would become one, because it seemed the sanest and swiftest route to a UI. When members of SF sneer at the SDLP as stoops and members of the SDLP dismiss all of SF as provos, I view it as a step back from a united Ireland, not forwards.

    So often in this election I’ve longed for the late, lamented blog Res Publica, who’s motto was “Too republican for the SDLP, not nationalist enough for SF.” There are members of both SF and the SDLP I often feel I could cheerfully vapourise in between loads of laundry, and others of both parties I did and do admire with a full heart because I know I could not have stood where they stood, endured what they endured, and done as well.

    Whether that is because of or inspite of the fact that members of my family have been brutalised and intimidated by both members of the crown forces and by paramilitaries I do not know, but that is how I feel.

    And I agree completely with Damien Okado-Gough’s conclusion here. Neither Republicans nor nationalists can stop with Stormont, but the only way we can move on is by offering those who are neither nationalist nor republican a viable and desirable option to the union. Exploiting sectarianism has brought parties from both communities electoral gains, but it cannot bring either a united Ireland or a less imperfect union.

  • Roisin

    [i]if you don’t like Slugger’s moderation then please go away and stop whining. Slugger is under no obligation and makes no pretence to providing an unmoderated free speech zone.[/i]

    Good point, Stalin. If all the people who complain about their posts being censored would just go away, then Slugger’s would be a far … um … far … um … maybe you can finish that line for me.

    It’s no secret that Slugger’s protects journalists. Has done since the day and hour this site was set up. Why? What is so special about journos that their opinions should be treated with such obsequious reverence? Other posters aren’t accorded this special category status. Mick should reconsider the name of this site, perhaps Long Kesh O’Fools would be more appropriate, with SC Posters and OD Posters.

  • Roisin

    [i]There are no ‘Catholic’ unionists because no ‘Catholic’ could be comfortable with the cultural trappings of unionism. That doesn’t mean that there are not many who would be aghast at the prospect of a united Ireland in the morning.[/i]

    Fascinating. There are no Catholic unionists, in your own words. Because no Catholic could be comfortable with the trappings of unionism, in your words. But there are many who would be “aghast” at the prospect of a united Ireland in the morning (not quite your words as I took the liberty of removing your double negatives).

    But those Catholics who aspire to a united Ireland are the deluded ones, according to you.

    *shakes head and looks to the sky seeking a God to implore*.

    Mick, are you sure you’re not also running a care-in-the-community facility now?

  • Roisin: Is a united Ireland attainable?
    No.

    What point then is there is directing a major part of your political energy in trying to bring it about?

    I do not believe that those who aspire to a United Ireland are deluded. I think those who think it is attainable within a few decades are wrong and that it is a squandering of political energies to concentrate on it, unless that concentration produces some rewarding by-product – like winding up the prods or proving tribal credentials.

    Now, I’m sure you still think I am stupid or in need of care, but that’s because that’s what you want to think.

  • kensei

    “Is a united Ireland attainable? ”

    Yes.

    “I think those who think it is attainable within a few decades are wrong”

    I think you’re wrong.

    How about them apples?

  • kensei

    “Now, I’m sure you still think I am stupid or in need of care, but that’s because that’s what you want to think.”

    Just to add, I’m sure you still think I’m wrong or deluded, but that’s because that’s what you want to think.

    Inane. Utterly inane.

  • lib2016

    Something like 80% of the voters on this island vote for parties which support an all-Ireland republic and they’re all ‘deluded’ according to Malachy. When I was younger I too used to have insights lesser mortals weren’t lucky enough to share…but then I sobered up.

  • Is the SDLP’s policy winding up the Prods, though?

    Peter Robinson is quite comfortable with Irish Government investment in the North. The DUP themselves are the people pushing hardest for a cut in Corporation Tax.

    That is an effective admission that Northern Ireland can’t afford to depend on the British exchequer indefinitely and needs to emulate the Celtic Tiger.

    If that can be achieved, it gets you to a place where a united Ireland is a much more realistic prospect, and where Northern Ireland needs to be anway.

  • Roisin

    Malachi,

    No, it’s because your initial rhetoric was divorced from reality. Good to see you’ve rowed back a bit from it now.

  • The Dubliner

    “No, the ‘constitutional question’ is actually a sectarian one, not a political one. If you’re brought up Catholic, you’re brought up to be Irish and to support Irish unity. If you’re brought up Protestant, you’re brought up to be British and to support the Union.” – Junior Apparatchik

    The issue is constitutional and decided by referendum; ergo, it is political. However, you are free to use whatever loaded and inappropriate terms you wish under pain of punishment from no-one other than your English teacher.

    “Political arguments, on the other hand, are subject to rational argument and to “swing” (i.e. the balance of options vary over time).” – Junior Apparatchik

    So, “political arguments” would be decided by plebiscite, as in a referendum on a constitutional issue wherein people use “rational argument” to debate the issue? Thank you for agreeing with me that the issue is political, even if you haven’t yet agreed with yourself. But do keep up with the patronising clause that the political debate would be free from “rational argument” if that is working out for you.

    “That is why a referendum would be pointless and divisive. And that is why if Nationalists want Irish unity, they basically have to stop being Nationalist, and instead start canvassing beyond the Chapel.- Junior Apparatchik “

    Well, at least you understand what the PoC means. However, if the PoC means “canvassing beyond the Chapel,” it also means doing that by rational argument to persuade unionists of the advantages of unity doesn’t it? But since your argument is that the issue is sectarian and not political, that argument excludes the possibility of rational argument having any effect on the outcome, doesn’t it? You are contradicting yourself by saying that which cannot be done must be done before x can be done. Fortunately, the GFA stipulates no such nonsense and allows for a referendum to be called, since that is a virtue of a written political agreement over obfuscating waffle.

    I would agree that it is a next-to-impossible task to persuade someone to vote to change his or her national allegiance, but that task is still a political one – and politics is the new dispensation.

  • The Dubliner

    “I am Irish but I voted for the GFA on the understanding that we were making a long term compact with our British neighbours to put constitutional change on the back burner so that we could get on with other things.” – Malachi O’Doherty

    Thanks for your honesty. Most of the political points I would have made in reply to your post were made by others, all of them coming from a nationalist perspective.

    I agree with you that PSF went into the talks that led to the GFA knowing that the only possible outcome would be an internal settlement, and not reunification. This cannot be seriously challenged since (a) the Downing Street Declaration introduced the (principle of) consent of the majority in NI. (b) the GFA talks were majority unionist, and (c) the only parties who could deliver reunification (the governments) were sidelined to the role of facilitators. I hold the view that PSF saw partition as being in their best party-political interests; and that they put their own interests before those of their supporters. They certainly lied repeatedly to those supporters about the timescale and the hurdles involved in achieving reunification. I posted on Slugger that:

    “The ‘logic’ behind the PoC is fatally flawed. It relies on a deranged assumption that you can charm a man into changing his sense of national identity – a sense of identity that many of both traditions in the north would die for. You can no more persuade a man to change his sense of national allegiance than you can persuade him to change his parents. These things are decided by emotion, not logic. Would you vote to join the UK if you were offered a lower tax band? You would not, yet you hope to bride the unionist with such insults. A man who feels British will always decide that his sense of national identity is best served by remaining a part of the country that he identifies with. So, forget about getting any unionists to vote for a UI, as that is a non-starter as a ‘plan.’

    While the unionist has remained part of the UK, the nationalist has not fared so well. Many have become integrated into the United Kingdom. There are a large chunk of Catholics who are unionist, and another large chunk who have no preference one way of the other regarding Irish unity. So, apart from convincing Protestants about the advantages of Irish unity, PSF have a hell of a lot of work to do just convincing nationalists about it. Nor is the work confined to those two tribes, as you now have many immigrants in the north who have chosen to live and work in the UK, not the Republic. As the Irish and British governments pump more money into the province in an attempt to shore it up, any resulting economic prosperity will inevitably attract more immigrants. As those people will have chosen to settle and work within the UK and not within the Republic, there are no prizes for guessing which way they will vote in if a referendum on Irish unity is ever called. In addition, an improvement in the political and economic situation in the north will also lead directly to an increase in the level of satisfaction with the status quo, leading obviously and conversely to a direct reduction in the level of dissatisfaction with the status quo and reduced desired to change that status quo in the dramatic manner of flinging the north into the republic. So, that logic does not favour a UI, but has the opposite outcome.

    Now, PSF hope to use the issue of Irish unity to gain more votes and support for their party in the south. They hope to position their party as the central dynamic by which all other parties in the south rally around and support in the ‘shared’ goal of Irish unity. In effect, their much touted “republican strategy” is actually nothing other than a party-political strategy aimed at gain party advantage. Do you really think that the voters of the south and the political parties of the south are naive and gullible enough not to see through such an obvious tactic? PSF have not a hope in hell of being allowed to prostitute republicanism in the south for party-political advantage as they did in the north. Their so-called “republican strategy” is a non-starter.

  • The Dubliner

    Continued:

    You will also find that as quickly as PSF find out that their dream of using republicanism in the south for gain is a non-starter, they will drop it and focus their efforts on local politics in the north and clinging onto their little devolved parliament in the north and the hundreds of state-financed party-political careers that it spawns and ‘ne’er a mention will be made of Irish unity other than on various annual commemorations. And really, did they ever think that folks in the south would allow a bunch of Marxists with no experience of finance beyond money-laundering and smuggling rackets to serve as the Negotiators-in-Chief for the south? That’s as deranged as thinking that unionists are going to listen to those they regard as squalid mass-murderers giving lectures about peace and reconciliation – with a few references to green letter boxes and 32-County Socialist Republics thrown in.”

    However, Malachi, you have to distinguish between duplicitous party leaders and those who vote for that party. The leaders of PSF may be following the path of deeper assimilation and integration of the ‘republican’ community into the United Kingdom, but that should not be confused with the will of that party’s voters – even if it becomes their path by not grasping that they are being led down it. You must never disenfranchise an electorate by sanctioning a political party or its leaders. I deeply distrust PSF but utterly respect those who vote for that party – and the absolute democratic right of people to vote for whomever they wish. Those “other things” you wish to “get on with” are, in my view, the same things that the leaders of PSF want to get on with i.e. completing the assimilation of the republican community into the UK.

    We should not read minds here, anyway – and not set the ludicrous task of reading not one mind in a fairground tent but all the minds of a people. A referendum will, at least, allow people to say what they wish the constitutional status of NI to be – and that is preferable to media propagandists/mediums telling them what they wish it to be.