It wasnt 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. Whats clear from the passage quoted above, however, is that Durkan wasnt 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.
My own problem with Durkans position is that its 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 wont take that road. His party is incapable of such a turn. Theres the contradiction which will facilitate his opponents in continuing to misrepresent his speech.
Living History 1968-74
A unique, once-in-a-lifetime 10-week course at Stranmillis University College Belfast featuring live, in-depth interviews with leading figures from this tumultuous era in Northern Ireland’s cultural and political history.
Live interviews with: Bernadette McAliskey, Austin Currie, Brid Rogers, Baroness Blood, Dennis Bradley, Baroness Paisley, Lord Kilclooney, Tim McGarry, Danny Morrison, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and others…