“That tells us rather more about them than about Durkan..”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Eamonn McCann dissects the reactions, including that of a certain commentator, to Mark Durkan’s gaze into the political future. From the Telegraph article.

It wasn’t just Sinn Fein who interpreted this to mean that power-sharing was no longer an arrangement to be defended but a mistake to be rectified. That astute commentator Brian Feeney — admittedly writing without benefit of having read the text — concluded that Durkan had denounced “compulsory power sharing between nationalists and unionists.” This “nonsense,” he reckoned, had been adopted by Durkan because, “his nose has been put out of joint by the present Sinn Fein-DUP axis.”

The DUP, Feeney noted, had happily joined Sinn Fein in agreeing that Durkan had abandoned all previous SDLP policy to range himself against mandatory coalition. What’s clear from the passage quoted above, however, is that Durkan wasn’t urging an abandonment of the current arrangements now or any time soon, but arguing that “future generations” could and should see the day when people in the North identified themselves in politics other than solely by reference to the religious divide.

Some, obviously, think this “nonsense,” and that anyone daring to envision a political system no longer structured in accordance with sectarian designation must have some petty, ignoble reason for so doing. That tells us rather more about them than about Durkan.

The “passage quoted above” was also quoted here. And Eamonn McCann also, correctly in my view, highlights the real problem for Mark Durkan and the SDLP.

My own problem with Durkan’s position is that it’s typically anaemic. If he wants not only to envision but to hasten the day when sectarianism cannot continue to corral the politics of the North into separate enclosures for separate communities, he should start by persuading his own party to drop its Nationalist designation and set about mobilising citizens across the divide against disadvantage and injustice. Of course, he won’t take that road. His party is incapable of such a turn. There’s the contradiction which will facilitate his opponents in continuing to misrepresent his speech.


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