Committee footsie

The SDLP has announced it will establish a committee to examine all-Ireland links including discussions with the Fianna Fail committee. A straw poll of SDLP members at their party conference shows strong support for a link-up with Fianna Fail and in a policy u-turn for going into opposition.

  • Dewi

    A straw poll indeed – 40 people ! – Seems a little strange to take far reaching conlusions from such a small sample. Would be interested to hear from any attendees what Ahern had to say.

  • Dewi

    And Basil McCrea spoke.

  • Irish Labour is also planning on having a commission:

    Interesting times.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Forty delegates out of just under 400 in 2007 is a drop over 33% from 2004’s – over 600 delegates (subs req). In fact it could be getting on for a 50% drop in conference attendence (membership?) in just a few years.

    Rallying the troops with an inspiring message as the numbers rocket downwards and age every year must be a hard job for Durkan.

  • Frank Sinistra

    If you take away the SDLP’s circa 110 elected reps you get a figure of just over 200 members turning up to conference.

    Hardly strong foundations for any party linking up with them to build on.

  • Frank Sinistra

    That’s an average SDLP per constituency membership of around 12 people.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Which, in fairness, is a pretty useless calculation. How many members do you reckon they have in East Belfast or North Down?

  • Dewi

    Remebered this from last year but can’t get link to work. 24 members in West Belfast in 2005…..

  • Frank Sinistra


    Including William Logan I can name four in North Down . I’d assume a minimum of six. That frees up six to bolster numbers in the other constituencies. We’ve got them up to 12.5 members in their strongholds. If we assume Mary Muldoon and Joe O’Doherty are the only members in East Belfast we have another 10 members to distribute. We’ve got them to less than 13.5 members per stronghold.

  • Dewi

    Frank – you have based that on some pretty stroppy assumptions Sir. You are assuming that all members turn up for conference for starters.

  • Frank Sinistra


    Whilst my calculation was tongue in cheek the drop in attendance from 2004 of over 33% (possibly closer to 50%) could be a reasonable indicator of what is happening in membership. Using that 2005 figure and a reduction 33% in line with the plummeting conference attendance the SDLP could be sitting with 1,300 members and god knows how many of them would be active.

    No wonder they are looking at accepting a hostile take over they are close to insolvency.

  • Nevin

    Never mind the blarney about roads, will there be a FF-DUP pact?

  • Dewi

    Durkan’s speech – some quite nice lines:

    “I know Sean (Farren) has other interests he now intends to pursue, including more work in Sierra Leone. Having served as our Director of Elections, he probably considers that a safe haven.”

    “Martin has made some journey from “Tiocfaidh Ar La” to Chuckle Brother. While Ian has travelled from snow balls to “no bother Taoiseach”.”

    And a little more profound and very good:
    “One of the underestimated truths in politics is that change changes things”

    Not a bad speech – plenty of praise for Ritchie, perhaps a little too much….might be a leadership rival…

  • Nevin

    Dewi, that reminds me of Hume’s, “.. didn’t give two balls of roasted snow what anyone advises me.”

  • Turgon

    Obviously this is only a straw poll and it is of only 40 people. The existence of a potential willingness to join the UUP in opposition is, however, interesting.

    There are clearly multiple obstacles to this. One of them being the potential of an SDLP link with FF which is commented on by Dennis Bradley and referenced in the blog above

    However, for the moment let us consider that the SDLP might go into opposition with the UUP. There will be lots to oppose. The carve up of power between the DUP and SF, the decisions on the Causeway, lots of stuff like that. There will, however, be problems. Will the UUP and SDLP have agreed positions on say academic selection, the Irish language etc? They may not need to have as they will still be separate parties, can have separte positions on some matters and they will still have lots of stuff to oppose jointly as I noted above.

    The outstanding problem in all this would be what would the SDLP and UUPs’ goal be? Would it be a renegotiation of the agreement to produce an end to the shared out dictatorship, proper cabinet government with proper collective responsibility, and the end of the mutual veto. Or would it be to reinstitute the current system with the UUP and SDLP having the vast majority of the power to divide out between themselves?

    Would the goal of opposition merely be to get the UUP and SDLP back to the positions they were in when power sharing first began; the positions they see as “rightfully” their’s explicitly in the case of the UUP and maybe implicitly in the case of the SDLP? If that were the case it is unclear how much Northern Ireland would gain from a change in the personalities without a change in the flawed nature of the governmental process. Though it must be admitted that wiping the smug smiles off the faces of a number of SF and DUP politicians would be quite pleasing. Also if the DUP were placed in opposition (highly unlikely as that is) they might be able to reflect of their previous manifesto commitments.

  • Darren

    Electorally I think it would be better for the SDLP to go into opposition in the Assembly.

  • JD

    Ironically Irish Labour would be better disposed to the SDLP going into opposition than FF. Fianna fail would prefare to be in government in both jurisdictions.

    The if the UUP were to merge with the Tories I could see them being in opposition but I think FF would (if they merged with the SDLP) prefare to have a minister in the executive putting Sinn Fein in coalition with them in the North – that’s part of Bertie’s game plan – not to overtake SF in the 6 counties but have Sinn Fein in coalition with Fianna Fail in the six counties thereby further undermining their distinctiveness to the southern voter.

    Charlie Haughey didn’t call him the most cunning one for nothing

  • harry

    ” but have Sinn Fein in coalition with Fianna Fail in the six counties thereby further undermining their distinctiveness to the southern voter”

    SF are a distinctive party?
    distinctive from whom ?
    i cannot tell them apart from the sdlp now?
    who do i vote for now??

  • Dewi

    Personally think that FF will chuck everything they have got into Starngford, North Antrim and maybe Upper Bann to try and get some Prod vote.

  • Nevin

    “FF will chuck everything they have got into .. North Antrim”

    Haven’t we got enough sleaze there already, Dewi?

  • Dewi

    Lol Nefyn – that’s why I think they sort of relate you know !

  • Nevin

    “who do i vote for now??”

    Eamonn McCann of the Socialist Environmental Alliance?

  • Nevin

    Dewi, was it Ahern who called Paisley the cutest hoor of them all?

  • dewi

    No – but that’s called an anticipatory quote….blasted cold in Wales by the way.

  • Dewi, was it Ahern who called Paisley the cutest hoor of them all?
    Posted by Nevin on Nov 04, 2007 @ 10:43 PM

    No matter who said that I think it’s be the first time Paisley has been called cute in his life.

  • I don’t really think that them going with FF would really help. I mean, really how popular is Fianna Fail, i don’t think people in NI really associate them even with the economic transformation they oversaw.

  • veritas

    There is a difference between members and delegates,I think about 1 delegate per 10 branch members+ all elected reps are automatically delegates.

  • oops

    Good to see you out there attempting to defend the SDLP.

    I suppose there must be an element of jealously there though mind you – they did get more people to their conference than the UUP!

  • This is much more interesting than the comments suggest. Apart from the wholly innacurate estimates of SDLP membership (my branch for one has 120!), commentators are failing to acknowledge the opprotunity for political realignment on this island. If it were as straight forward as mergeing with FF, the SDLP would have passed the motion suggesting just that yesterday. The coming year will see suggestions which could dramatically alter the political ladnscape of this island and impact on several of our major parties. More on

  • sammaguire

    Conall, the Shinners got nearly 40% more votes than you at the last General Election. Something is seriously wrong with the SDLP. If you don’t want to merge with FF that’s your problem. Without a merger FF will still probably take up to 50% of the present SF and SDLP vote within 10 years.

  • Sam

    I take your point. Mine is that we simply cannot predict at this time how any realignment might work out. FF are the biggest party on this island and deserve respect but the SDLP whilts organisationally weak is still a player and hugely influential.

  • JD

    I read Henry McDonald’s piece in this week’s Observer where he claimed a number of delegates said the first step to merger should be an agreed SDLP-Fianna Fail candidate in Northern Ireland at the next European elections. The SDLP could call themselves Fianna Fail-Social Democratic Party stay in the PES and field an agreed candidate with Fianna Fail.

    If the SDLP were to turn themselves into an all Ireland strategic partner of Fianna Fail within the PES would that not be acceptable to Social Democrats aswell as Fianna Failers in the SDLP? A Fianna Fail/Social Democrats party could be a sister party to both Fianna Fail and Labour thereby keeping the wolf from the the door

    Given that the two suitors are Fianna Fail and Labour would realignment not mean trying to draw these two traditions together rather than perpetrate the division. The SDLP is an amalgam of Fianna Failers and Social Democrats in the PES is Durkan’s idea not to try keep this going?