Six opportunities for new SDLP leader

I have written and article for today’s Irish News looking six issues which are likely to shape that SDLP leadership contest.

As well as needing to firm up the proposal on the Forum for Unity and provide the electorate with an alternative to the DUP-SF coalition, renewal is need within the party.

The acid test of a good leader is her/his ability to build a talented and ambitious team. This means having people on board who are going to challenge and bring new ideas and energy to the top team. It means having the courage to recruit people who might someday do your job.

There is an urgent need for new blood at Assembly level. Mark Durkan was successful at local government level bringing forward new councillors. The next leader will have to do the same for the Assembly.

It is also time to build alliances which reflect 21st century Ireland.

The SDLP can see Fianna Fail and Irish Labour support groups in the North as a threat but given neither are contesting elections why not convert them into allies. The new leader can walk alone or seek to broaden the party’s support base from within democratic nationalism and the non aligned middle ground without diluting the party’s independence or integrity.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This means having people on board who are going to challenge and bring new ideas and energy to the top team.

    Talk about falling at the first hurdle or what.

  • Jer

    Conall,

    The SDLP can see Fianna Fail and Irish Labour support groups in the North as a threat but given neither are contesting elections why not convert them into allies.

    I am not sure how much more allies they can become. They have refrained from entering politics in the north to allow the SDLP continue and they have canvassed repeatedly in an attempt to boost the SDLP vote.

    Its help that did the SDLP more harm than good in the long run.

    Firstly the SDLP must recognise that FG/FF/Labour are already allies who if there is an election tomorrow will be trooping up northwards to canvass with the SDLP. How deeper can they become allies other than a formal UUp-Tory style arrangement.

  • Bruiser

    I still wouldn’t rule out Senator Mark Durkan, Fianna Fail, in the near future.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I can not see why FF should be seen to favour any party now. Times have changed, at the end of the day FF is a rival to all parties here. It does not send out a good message to be associated to any particular party.

  • otto

    The Labour Party seem to have decided to remain a movement in Northern Ireland rather than another competing party.

    Alliance and the SDLP are struggling to achieve critical mass. They increasingly agree in their opinions and positions in the Assembly and I’d expect the same would apply in any local party organisations.

    I think the future is the merger between FF and the SDLP we’ve been waiting for and increasing co-operation leading to an eventual permanent integration between Fianna Fail and the Alliance Party (with the Alliance Party perhaps remaining as a benign sub-party or faction like the Co-operative Party within the British Labour Party).

    If you think this is the way to go then an easy way to show that and perhaps accelerate it is to join either the SDLP or the Alliance Party and, in addition, Fianna Fail.

    As a good pro-European, pro-unity, pro-shared future liberal I’ve joined Alliance and Fianna Fail.

    Interested to know if any party colleagues think I’ve broken some kind of rule.

  • Jer

    Otto,

    The only part of Ireland where people are still joining FF mmust be in the northern part.

    Party members are leaving them in the southern part.

    The terrible thing about the SDLP is its perceived irrelevance. Even this thread is strating to drift away from the SDLP and now discussing the FF/Labour

  • otto

    Thanks Jer,

    The Tories were a dead duck in the ’90s and British Labour were nowhere in the ’80s. FF may need a period of recovery but they’re not going to disappear.

    And my selfish priority to to find the best resourced and most engaged sponsor, partner or parent for our northern nationalist & liberal parties. The FF organisation and the opportunities for exchange and support aren’t going to disappear after the next Dail elections (not for another three years) any more than the Tories’ after ’97.

  • truth seeker

    did the dinosaurs know they where about to be made extinct?

    Likewise the dinosaurs within the sdlp are the only ones who actually believe, that as an entity, the party will continue to exist.

  • John East Belfast

    “I think the future is the merger between FF and the SDLP we’ve been waiting for and increasing co-operation leading to an eventual permanent integration between Fianna Fail and the Alliance Party (with the Alliance Party perhaps remaining as a benign sub-party or faction like the Co-operative Party within the British Labour Party)”.

    LOL – Do the Alliance Party members and voters realise that in a week when their most promising electoral candidate defects to UCUNF that their Republican members (and now we know their are more than one) are planning their disappearance into All Ireland Nationalism.

    However you cant blame nationalists for thinking Alliance is up for such a move considering the abuse it dishes out against unionism – it obviously thinks they are of like mind !

  • Sam Thompson

    ‘eventual permanent integration between Fianna Fail and the Alliance Party’

    if that happened, most of those who vote alliance currently would be lost, so is there any point?

  • otto

    “if that happened, most of those who vote alliance currently would be lost, so is there any point?”

    fair question

    Half of Alliance voters transfer to nationalist parties so no reason to think they’d be lost.

    Would the other half would be put off giving Alliance a first preference by a relationship with Fianna Fail?

    The Green Party’s position as a regional sub-group of the Irish Green Party doesn’t put off the North Downers who chose a green MLA.

    Candidates running for Alliance, (even if they share back-office support and summer BBQ’s with their liberal allies or potentially colleagues in FF) shouldn’t be any more untouchable to people of prod/unionist background than the Greens.

  • otto

    “Do the Alliance Party members and voters realise that in a week when their most promising electoral candidate”

    And good luck to Ian. Do you think you’d have got him without an immediate job at the CSJ and the chance to one day succeed Jim Nicholson in Europe?

    I doubt it.

    And I wonder if Ian lived in an area of nationalist majority whether he’d have made a jump elsewhere?

  • bob wilsom

    Conall McDevitt for Leader of the SDLP!
    He sounded very reasonable on the telly the other night – mind you dodgy taste in suits.

  • Half of Alliance voters transfer to nationalist parties so no reason to think they’d be lost.

    What proportion of those would transfer to FF? If it’s less than 100%, then Sam’s statement is valid…

  • otto

    The editors at Wikipedia seem to have made their minds as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derry

    “Derry or Londonderry (Irish: Doire or Doire Cholmchille, meaning “Oak wood of Columba”) often called the Maiden City, (a reference to its walls remaining unbreached during the Siege of Derry in 1689) is a city in Northern Ireland. The old walled city of Londonderry lies on the west bank of the River Foyle with the location of old Derry on the east bank, the present city now covers both banks (Cityside to the west and Waterside to the east) and the river is spanned by two bridges.”

    The sooner this becomes standard use the better.

  • otto

    oops. wrong thread! up too late.

  • Comrade Stalin

    otto,

    I’m confused about why anybody would join Fianna Fail. Aren’t you aware of the history of the past 20 odd years ? Corruption, bribes, and an economy completely wrecked.

    FWIW, Alliance have a good relationship with Fine Gael. Accordingly, I’ve always thought that Ireland would have turned out much better under Collins than it did with Dev.