“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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  • Dec

    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

    Well, it’s a stout defence but nonsense nonetheless. Durkan’s big mistake was not being sufficiently clear on what it was he was actually saying (out of character, I know). What Eamonn can’t explain away is why every other major political party (not just the DUP) interpreted his speech as SF did (and has led to furious backpedalling by Durkan ever since). Here’s a clue why:

    “As we move towards a fully sealed and settled process we should be preparing to think about how and when to remove some of the ugly scaffolding needed during the construction of the new edifice”

    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…

    Still, when I want realistic visions of the future, I too look to Eamonn McCann and long for the days when Catholics and Protestants will break into the premises of American multi-nationals together, and in the spirit of reconciliation, leave a cross-community shit on someone’s workspace.

  • Dave

    “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.”

    It sounds good, but it is not predicated on premises that apply in the NI context; and, ergo, it is a futile exercise that cannot work without an expediently invented psychosis to facilitate it. Designation only applies in an abnormal society like NI where it is necessary to designate. In normal societies, all citizens – or the overwhelming majority of them – share a common nationality and a common purpose of mutual wellbeing based on loyalty to the state – they share a default designation without dissent and their state is by default a nation-state. That kind of harmony is only possible in a nation-state and isn’t possible in a profoundly abnormal society like NI where two Nations are compelled to share one state, competing with each other for control of it. Even attempts under the GFA to neutralise the state are futile since that state remains under British jurisdiction, constitution and law; and any unnatural acceptance of that as the natural order is tantamount to one nation repudiating its national identity. It is right that British nationalists should seek control of their state and it is right that Irish nationalists should do the same. What is currently wrong is that Irish nationalists conceded legitimacy to the control of the state by British nationalists. Irish nationalists must bring NI to a conclusion, not prop it up by subjugating their own interests to the interests of others. As they conceded that the Unionist Veto and partition is legitimate by signing up to the GFA, the only way forward is now repartition.

  • The Raven

    Over 750 people lost their jobs today. Not one mention of it on a thread today, either.

    I”m kinda digging this part of the passage: “set about mobilising citizens across the divide against disadvantage and injustice”

    Some real re-focusing of what we childishly call politics is needed in this place.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Yep, as we move closer towards market states and further away from nation states, the Litter Britters and Little Irelanders will look increasingly irrelevant globally.

    But can we overcome our parochialism, Raven? How many Seagates does it take to change a mindset?

  • Artemis

    I agree with the comment that the SDLP need to drop its Nationalist designation. More to the point they need to stop trying to follow the Tricolor Brick Road.

    I would like to see them take on a United Northern Ireland stance and put the all ireland stance to the back burner. They need to reach out to the apathetic non voters who are complaining about the problems that we are facing, that they know are being created by SF/DUP but refuse to do or say anything about it.

    These are the hard working people of NI who are non sectarian and just want their issues dealt with and they are people of all colors, races, religions and nationalities. These are the people the SDLP need to reach out to and forget about this fight with SF. Leave SF to make themselves look bad and take the higher ground.

    The SDLP in my mind are the only party who have the dignity and morals that I respect in NI politics and I hate seeing them losing out to the most disgusting of people.