On the Durkan succession…

This was written yesterday when Mark Durkan’s intention to resign was still newsworthy… That its gone off the radar so quickly probably demonstrates just how small our politics have become in the last few years, but probably too, how uncontested a space northern Nationalism has become…

I argue that it is no place of the current leader to try and stage manage his succession and if he does, it will only do his own party considerable harm… Managed succession may cut down turbulence in the short term, but it does by sacrificing passionate contention over the future… Rather than going after a Westminster election campaign (which can only be about his legacy), he’d be better stepping down sooner and letting someone else provide voters a choice over what kind of future they have to offer… The rest here…

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  • John O’Connell

    I’m glad to see that you’re not writing off the SDLP in your article, but I think that you exaggerate the concerns of those inside the party about Mark’s final months.

    This is a sad time for the SDLP but the fact is that Mark was always the leader who was going to lead Sinn Fein into a Russian winter in order that it commits to the peace to the extent that there is no going back. Now we’re going to see what Sinn Fein is made of when the big “guns” are pointed at them.

    Personally I think they really are just there for the taking.

  • gay?

    John,

    I note that you have commented on Mark Durkan: given the logic of the comments which you made last night, does this mean that, similar to Beelzebub (for the uninitiated that’s Gerry Adams), you are a repressed homosexual?

  • Dave

    There is a business maxim that a board should never allow a CEO to choose his own successor because they are prone to choose one who will not perform better than they did and thereby will not detract from but rather enhance the reputation of the departed CEO.

    Is there a market for two nationalist parties in NI who both support the GFA and who both support left-of-centre policies? It seems rather pointless.

  • eric

    “There are internal party fears that Durkan will use the interim between now and his retirement next year to broker a deal between the more socialist-minded end of the party and the Fianna Fail-facing faction”.
    ___________________________________

    It is almost like a death embrace. Neither side can strike out in their own respective direction, as a result they pull their punches and stasis pertains.

    I don’t think waiting until the Westminster election is a viable strategy. Although Durkan’s move is an attempt to ensnare McDonnell, it does little for the SDLP’s coherence or renewal.

    While in certain places SF might well be there for the taking the SDLP as it is currently constituted and strategicly disposed lacks the energy or dynamism to exploit any of their rivals difficulties. Mick’s point about the lack of competitiveness within Nationalism is bang on the money – no new big ideas, movements or strategies.

  • John O’Connell

    Gay?

    I think you miss the point. The SDLP is a female party and therefore it has lesbian tendencies.

    On the other hand Sinn Fein is an extremely masculine party and therefore can be defined as no more than a homosexual party. Being one of the boys has to thus take on a meaning all on its own.

  • J Kelly

    Mick i don’t believe that Durkan will be allowed to pick his successor all those people in the party who had respect for his intellect, but could see his faults will now have the opportunity to have their say. This will leave space for new thinking and maybe a surprise.

    Durkan has to go now and give them a bounce going forward to the election otherwise they will be heading into an election leaderless or even worse everyones a leader.

    John who would you reckon as your new leader… Mary Bradley.

  • Dave

    Sharon Haughey has lesbian tendancies? Is the video on YouTube?

    “In truth northern Irish nationalism is dying from the inside out. In the heady days of 1998, many convinced themselves they’d hoodwinked the unionists into drinking some kind of magic draft that would bring us all seamlessly and dreamily into a “United Ireland”. The promise of the Good Friday Agreement and the untold wealth of the Celtic Tiger have been frittered away in a bitter and increasingly narrowly focused party political game. Partition, which seemed to be disappearing like snow off a ditch, now looks deeper and wider than ever.”

    I think the supporters of the Shinners convinced themselves (or, more accurately, allowed their leadership to convince them) that renouncing their right to national self-determination as members of the Irish nation and formally accepting the legitimacy of British sovereignty was actually a victory for northern nationalism rather than an abject surrender that was demanded of them since partition.

    I recall pointing this defeat out on Slugger a few years ago and being dismissed as a Shinner-basher (which, alas, I am) but most sane folks (excluding Sammy Wat Done It, obviously) have now accepted this reality.

    The fundamental problem they have is that they are trying to pass off the terms of their surrender as a terms of victory which should serve as a blueprint for a united Ireland. In other words, unity can only happen if those in Ireland also agree to renounce their right to national self-determination, dismantle their nation-state and replace it with a replica of Northern Ireland wherein the Irish should agree that another nation should hold a veto over them.

    That simply is never going to happen (even though it is currently being progressed through the backdoor of the NSMC where the United Kingdom has been granted joint sovereignty over vital institutions of the Irish State and wherein the Irish national interest and its culture – such as its language – is quietly being curtailed). This ‘progress’ is only possible because – I’d guess – that less than 1% of Irish people are aware that the UK has sovereignty over Irish affairs since this is presented to them as Ireland gaining sovereignty over the affairs of Northern Ireland (when, in fact, it is joint sovereignty over Ireland). Where they to become aware of this, they would demand that these derogations of their sovereignty are revoked.

    There simply is no blueprint for unity; and as Jack Lynch pointed out, Irish unity could only ever be progressed on the basis of one nation – this is repudiated in the GFA which declares that there are two nations, not the required one nation:

    Mr. Asquith, former British Prime Minister said:

    “Ireland is a nation; not two nations, but one nation. There are few cases in history, and as a student of history in a humble way, I myself know none, of a nationality at once so distinct, so persistent, and so assimilative as the Irish”.

    Mr. Winston Churchill once said:

    “Whatever Ulster’s right may be, she cannot stand in the way of the whole of the rest of Ireland. Half a province cannot impose a permanent veto on the nation. Half a province cannot obstruct forever the reconciliation between the British and the Irish democracies and deny all satisfaction to the united wishes of the British Empire”.

    King George V. speaking in Belfast at the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament in June 1921, hoped that the opening would be:

    “the prelude of the day in which the Irish people, North and South, under one Parliament or two, as those Parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect”.

    It is not the case that the Shinners have changed the means to Irish unity but rather it is the case that they have changed the end itself.

  • Katinka

    Why do politicians do this? We saw what Blair did – announce his resignation in advance and paralised the government until he went. Now we can argue that it is still paralised, but the point is quite simple. Announce your resignation, go quickly, and allow the party to select your successor. Durkin should go as soon as the party can arrange a vote for a successor. That would be in a few weeks, not vague months dependent on when the PM calls the UK election.

  • dewi

    Katinka – astonishingly you make total sense – He should go ASAP.

  • I thought Mick’s article was alright, and was pleasantly surprised to see that John O’Connell has a sense of humour, even if his views are…ahem…a little off the wall on most things. I think the biggest thing about the Durkan departure will be the move out of Derry of the leadership because no matter where the new head will come from, it is very unlikely to be Derry. Had a chat with Colum Eastwood a while back and was a little shocked that he seemed unable to offer any answers on the way forward for the SDLP (it was his birthday when I ran into him and he was a bit bevvied, to be fair).

  • John O’Connell

    J Kelly

    It’s really great that an out and out shinner like you has an opinion on the SDLP leadership race. But I don’t think anyone is going to take you seriously. And if Mary was a bit younger.

    Dave

    The fundamental problem they have is that they are trying to pass off the terms of their surrender as a terms of victory which should serve as a blueprint for a united Ireland.

    Christ suggests that the road to victory runs through the road to defeat. Surrender comes before validation. The Nationalists may have lost the battle but the war is not over yet.

    Forget the Shinners who simply do not possess the knowledge to work at that level, and never have. The SDLP will deliver but not through masculine victory. It will be done through the ways of the woman. Love will defeat ethnic hate and the unionists will melt rather than be annihilated.

  • Jonny Black

    hasnt everyone forgotten wee alex attwood? the mans a charmer and would persuade some old unionist grannys to vote for him.

  • Comrade Stalin

    We saw what Blair did – announce his resignation in advance and paralised the government until he went. Now we can argue that it is still paralised, but the point is quite simple.

    I am not sure I agree with this. The papers were full of speculation about Blair’s handover as soon as the dust had settled on the third term election victory and the government was pretty well paralysed until he made his intentions public. Either way, though, to me the Labour administration has basically been a blur since 2005 with nothing especially interesting going on.

  • J Kelly

    Souvarine i have had a few conversations with colum over the last few years since he seems to me to be in the sdlp because he admires or adores mark durkan… now he has semi retired cloum could be one of those who will have choices to make. by the way liked your site will give it the odd look i reckon martina will run durkan closer than you think particularily now..

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dave,

    “Whatever Ulster’s right may be, she cannot stand in the way of the whole of the rest of Ireland. Half a province cannot impose a permanent veto on the nation. Half a province cannot obstruct forever the reconciliation between the British and the Irish democracies and deny all satisfaction to the united wishes of the British Empire”.

    I wonder if that was when he was in the Liberals. The Conservative Party frustrated home rule and Irish independence every step of the way. If they had not done so, we might not be in the mess we are now.

  • John O’Connell

    J Kelly

    i reckon martina will run durkan closer than you think particularily now..

    Will she resign from Stormont if she wins?

    Her chances of winning would seem to me to be very slim. I think she has likeability problems to overcome within Sinn Fein where she seems to rule with an iron fist.

  • J Kelly

    john thats leadership something that i have been telling you for years that durkan lacks and now he proved it

  • URQUHART

    Mark Durkan is a political leader with a lot of personal integrity and has done some very good things for this place. Notably, and recorded elsewhere at length, his opposition to the OTR legislation stands as a genuine act of political bravery, with no obvious political return for his party. And a very nice guy.

    But his departure was overdue. Nice guys don’t beat ex-combatants.

    Katinka above is 100% correct. The notion that the SDLP will spend the next 8 months arsing around with a list of people all as potential leaders is ludicrous. So ludicrous in fact, that it’s almost certainly what we’ll see. Can anyone imagine election leaders debates with Durkan participating?

    If any of the candidates have any wit, talent or ambition, they will demand (publicly if necessary) that this issue be done and dusted before Christmas.

  • URQUHART

    It’s nice to be back.

  • spiritof07

    In good old Irish style a lot of people are now rushing to praise Durkan now that he has effectively gone. Yes he did well on the OTR legislation – he is a sure footed parliamentarian. And he performed very well in Foyle in 05 to hold the deat, in fact he sent Mitchell packing to south Antrim.

    But – he also presided over electoral disaster after disaster. The mood was against the SDLP no doubt over the last decade, but who can forget the calamitous 2003 Assembly election which was fought on the fabulous pretext, “Stop the DUP”.

    It was a disaster, and while the Labour young uns thought it up, Durkan went along with it to the point where he stood on a zebra bloody crossing posing as a lollilpop man with a sign saying, “Stop the DUP”. That was it for me. He should have left the room quietly after that election.

    Now, 6 years later (or maybe 7) he is going. And no doubt he is a nice guy.

  • DC

    Yes it was TUV-ish, sort of using right-wing unionism against itself except it was actually a tactic by a centre-left nationalist party. And this in an political atmosphere of zero-summer takes all. People were just left completely baffled.

  • fin

    “Yes he did well on the OTR legislation”
    Really, his excuse for scuppering it was that it included legislation which prevented members of the BA and RUC been tried for crimes they had committed, he declared that he would not allow those people to avoid standing trial, and sofar how many have gone on trial?

  • Thereyouarenow

    who wants to follow a dead(politically) man walking and when the death is by suicide it is all the less inspiring.

    Re. Alex Attwood. He is a spikey type and I do not know how good he would be electorally for the SDLP but he would introduce a political combativeness that is needed in Irish nationalist politics.

    How often do nice guys do well. If you do well enough, then enough of the people liked something about you.

  • slug

    The SDLP need an Alex Salmond. But Alex Attwood might be a close substitute.

  • brendan,belfast

    Finm you wrote, “sofar how many have gone on trial”

    I would assume the answer is none. Is that mark Durkan’s fault?

    Eejit.

  • finm

    Brendan, yes it is Durkans fault, as soon as the OTR act bit the dust he, and the SDLP, did nothing to get the ‘bad apples’ of the security forces in the dock. What he did do was wipe SF’s eye in the most petty manner possible, he ensured that the OTRs couldn’t return home just to score points over Adams.

    Before you or anyone else launches into a tirade over the OTRs and what they do or don’t deserve, I’d suggest you ask Seamus Mallon if he ever cleared the way for any OTRs to return home, favours for family friends anyone…..

  • Paul O’Neill

    Souvarine & J Kelly

    I have to say I am surprised by your opinions on Colum Eastwood. Last year, as an A-level student, I attended a debate with a panel of politicians in Derry. Colum Eastwood was there on behalf of the SDLP – it was quite clear that he had a lot to offer in terms of where the SDLP and Ireland should be going. We need more young people like Colum to get involved in politics to challenge the old guard on all sides.

  • eric

    “But – he also presided over electoral disaster after disaster. The mood was against the SDLP no doubt over the last decade, but who can forget the calamitous 2003 Assembly election which was fought on the fabulous pretext, “Stop the DUP”.

    It was a disaster, and while the Labour young uns thought it up, Durkan went along with it to the point where he stood on a zebra bloody crossing posing as a lollilpop man with a sign saying, “Stop the DUP”. That was it for me. He should have left the room quietly after that election. ”

    ______________________________________

    Ouch! I remember that picture – baffling and embarrasing. Then there were the new big ideas “post nationalism” and then “new nationalism” and all that time his party meandered aimlessly trying to find a new purpose after having all their clothes stolen.

    The SDLP is now a Big Tent with very few people in it. Mick’s point about “competitiveness” is bang on the money – we need Labour, Liberal, Fianna Fail and Conservative alternatives to the present politics rather than an aimless “Good Catholic” Party

  • Hogan

    “Re. Alex Attwood. He is a spikey type and I do not know how good he would be electorally for the SDLP but he would introduce a political combativeness that is needed in Irish nationalist politics.”

    Now whatever you think about parties beign led from Westminster surely the leader has to be AT LEAST an MLA?

    The SDLP don’t need a transition leader, they need someone who is going to retain their seat post 2012.

  • It may be a while before we know the results of tonight’s Executive meeting but the blogosphere can have its say in [url=http://roevalleysocialist.blogspot.com/]my extremely unofficial survey of opinion…[/url]