In the Irish Times today David Adams warns the Labour party from contemplating acceptance of Gerry Adams supplication for a grand alliance of the left… He argues that doing it duty and moving in alongside Sinn Fein and into power will cost it its political soul…
…it remains debatable whether the SDLP was sacrificed to the peace process or to John Humes ego, what is not in question is the nature of the sacrifice itself. The SDLP got too close to Sinn Féin (who, if nothing else, are masters of media manipulation), and was almost destroyed as a result.
Its policies were hijacked and presented by Sinn Féin as its own. Every setback for nationalism, both inside and outside political negotiations, was attributed to the SDLP; and every victory claimed by Sinn Féin.
In a classic divide and conquer tactic, employed recently against the Rev Ian Paisley and First Minister Peter Robinson in an unsuccessful attempt to split the DUP, care was taken to separate in the public mind good SDLP members from bad. Good constituted those who wholeheartedly supported the alliance, whereas bad would have been those like Séamus Mallon, who never hid his contempt for Sinn Féin or his suspicions about the partys true intentions.
At the finish, the once largest and by far the most capable nationalist party in the North was almost completely hollowed out.
It was left not so much with a crisis of identity, but with the task of trying to convince a by then former electorate that it still had any identity (and purpose) of its own left.
He note SF’ condition for any future alliance is to make its position on the national question public and clear:
There was little enough appetite for uniting with the North (or, rather, with its people) when the Celtic Tiger was roaring, and money seemed to be growing on trees. What possible popular support can there be now, in the depths of a depression, for joining with a people that annually draws down £8 billion (9 billion) in subventions from Britain, and will fully expect to be kept in the fashion to which it has become accustomed? All things considered, I suppose its really a question of how stupid Gerry Adams must think Labour is.
Not stupid enough to get into bed with you lot, Gerry, should be the Labour Partys answer. That way, it really would be doing its duty: to the country, to its electorate, and to itself.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty