The new leaders most important question: “What is the SDLP for?

Excellent analysis from Brian Feeney on the dilemma faced by whomever wins the leadership of the SDLP. Whichever way it goes, if the winner does not find an answer to the question of ‘what is the SDLP for, the very first open leadership election in the 39 year old history of the party may be its last:

The technicalities of the election aside, the new leader faces serious problems, the first of which is the average age of party members and elected representatives. The SDLP seems to have frozen about 25 years ago, around the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Incredibly, Mark Durkan – the outgoing leader at 49 – is their youngest MLA. Margaret Ritchie is 51 and Alasdair McDonnell 60.

Compare David Cameron (43) or Brian Cowen (49). There’s something wrong with a party whose current leader is its youngest MLA.

There are no visible young figures in the party. Yes, they do have a few young councillors, but none has developed a political profile. None is an obvious candidate for stardom.

Finally, policy. What does the SDLP want now that the Good Friday Agreement has been achieved?

They exude an attitude of entitlement and bitterness, forgetting that voters don’t care about past achievements.

The leading figures spend their time attacking Sinn Fein’s policies. When John Hume was leader everyone knew what the SDLP wanted. They were sick hearing him repeating it. What does the new SDLP leader want? Can either McDonnell or Ritchie enunciate a separate identity for the SDLP, look to the future, carve out a path to follow that will not only enthuse members but attract new young recruits?

Failing that, this leadership election will be the last.

For me that’s the bottom line issue for the party, but Feeney touches on important top line conditions in this particular contest:

She [Ritchie] is the safe, establishment candidate. She will rock no boats. She threatens no one in the SDLP.

The same can’t be said for McDonnell who believes some people in the SDLP need threatened. He’s a firm believer that in political parties hot air rises and dead wood floats and that, if there isn’t change, the SDLP will submerge under the weight of that dead wood.

Where will he get his support if Ritchie holds on to the big branches?

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  • Question is

    The question is what is the SDLP’s political narrative?

  • Brit

    When SF abandoned traditional physical force republicanism and moved to constitutional nationalism based on the principle of consent it was always going to happen that there was no need or room for two constitutional nationalist parties.

  • Seymour Major

    ‘Question is’ has asked the most important question and Brit has made highlighted the most pertinent point.

    No mention has been made in this post of the intention of the Conservative / UUP allicance to compete for catholic voters who are natural conservatives. If the SDLP do not perceive them as future a threat to their core vote, they are making a big mistake.

    If either candidate is going to light bonfires he/she must do it in this leadership election campaign. The SDLP does not just need a new leader. It needs a leader who bring them down a new path and create a new political niche for their party.

    If they stay in their present position, they are doomed.

  • Northern Friend

    I think Feeney’s analysis of what the two candidates represent hits the nail squarely on the head.

    The big question that northern nationalism outside the SDLP membership will be looking to see is: is the SDLP ready for change (McDonnell) or is it going to be business as usual (Rithcie)?

  • Lori

    “No mention has been made in this post of the intention of the Conservative / UUP allicance to compete for catholic voters who are natural conservatives”

    Seymour Major – What planet are you living on?

  • thereyouarenow

    Can pretty much all nationalist/republican parties on the Island of Ireland get away with pretending to be left or slighter further left of centre.

    God knows what Fine Gael are except perennialy Hopeless.
    If you cannot out score the bunch of gangsters/thieves/incompetents that Mafios fianna fáil in a depression then really you should commit Hari Kari.

  • Boris

    Ritchies support isn’t in the big branches, its in the people close to Durkan and his advisors who feel they’ve been done out of a job by those who wanted real leadership in the party and those who were sick of the Durkan malaise.

    If they want a new team that’ll actually win seats, then they need McDonnell. He’s been actively supporting young firebrands who are aiming to win seats for the party across the North, most importantly in Belfast, where the Stoops have fallen into an almost irrepairable state thanks to the Attwood Bros.

    I’ve said it here on Slugger before, if the Stoops thought about who the Unionists and Provos wouldn’t want as leader, they’d vote en masse for McDonnell, a candidate who’s given the Unionists several kicks in the teeth in South Belfast and who wasn’t afraid to stand up to Maskey’s band of misfits over the McCartney murder.

  • slug

    If they move away from a Social Democratic and Labour position then Labour will be more likely to enter, which is perhaps a reason not to move away from Labour values.

  • DR

    nobody has answered the question yet, what is the SDLP for?

  • Lapsed Stoop

    Boris, you said ‘He’s been actively supporting young firebrands who are aiming to win seats for the party across the North, most importantly in Belfast’.

    Who are these young firebrands. I’m not aware of any up and coming youngsters backed by Alasdair. Can you provide a list of names of the future stars?

  • Brian Walker

    Brian Feeney’s analysis is all the more telling as for once, it’s largely free from spleen and personal axe-grinding. Under STV and the current 108 members, a role for a second nationalist party is going a -begging. The excessive personal rivalry in the party suggests lack of common purpose. The original SDLP had bigger egos and a city v country split,(socialists vs school teacher nationalists I seem to remember) but bigger purposes. Today’s SDLP should stop writing themselves off and wingeing so much about SF/DUP stitch-ups. With such serious splits between the top two parties, this just isn’t convincing. And no more mini-me to Sinn Fein, please. There is absolutely no need to write the SDLP off unless they do it themselves. Guff like “rolling our sleeves up” isn’t enough. Policy leadership is now essential. Better organisation won’t do it for them, it never does in politics. They need Big Ideas to build momentum. The door is open, SF is thrown by the fact of devolution and lacks direction. Mark Durkan, good man in many ways, was a disappointment because although he was/is clever and more interested in policy than any other party leader, he bogged himself down in detail as an excuse for failing to give enough firm leads. At 49, he remains the peerless researcher. Mark may now make a bigger contribution, free of the burden. I hope so. I suggest the would- be leader comes out a raft of ideas that would leave the others behind, based on accepting the Ashdown report and getting on with devolution based on a vigorous approach to a shared future; a process for ending the 11 plus deadlock (I see a glimmer of effort there with the UUP); realistic local tax and spend measures that face reality and stop hankering after FDI nirvana; seeking cross community alliances at Assembly and council level that put pressure on the DUP and SF but without undue antagonism; and practical measures to breathe life into the cross border institutions. Try putting flesh on the bones of an Agreed Ireland than thrash around for an unattainable united one. With all their wealth of knowledge in N and W Belfast where is their programme of integrated practical policing and community development? It’s this sort of stuff we need to hear more from them, not the old neuroses.

  • Shouldn’t that be The new leader’s most important question, not leaders?

  • Greenflag

    ‘nobody has answered the question yet, what is the SDLP for?

    To provide a continuing supply of nice middle class catholics and nationalists for the DUP & UUP & TUV to walk on, chew up or piss on whenever the sectarian urge needs an outlet . Not a safe thing to try when said RC happens to be SF .

    Lisburn Council is just one example of how Unionism can be when it has a choice .Uionist spots haven’t changed no matter what the Tories may try to impugn . It matters not a whiff be the spots UUP or DUP or the new ‘dinosaur’ of Unionism the TUV:( .

    There is a ‘price’ for being perceived as a nice ‘nationalist ‘ or catholic politician in Northern Ireland . To put it bluntly -you get little enough respect from most of your own side and little or none at all from the unionist side . Think Gerry Fitt – Austin Currie -Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan . John Hume did a little better becuae of his ‘international ‘ reputation.

    I think Margaret Ritchie is an effective Minister but she’s far too nice a person to lead the SDLP . At a recent election can’t recall which one but she was elected and before she started to speak the assembled ‘Unionists’ tramped off the stage presumably as a mark of respect ?. Margaret did not bat an eyelid and made her thank you speech . What she should have done of course was to shout at the backs of departing Unionist backs something along the lines of ‘ ‘and don’t come back you shower of orange ‘ or some such .

    She’d be a shoo in for leader had she done so .

    But in present times it may be better to have a less mannerly and more brusque leader if for nothing else than it might and I repeat might just ‘prevent ‘ SF from claiming the FM position following the next Assembly election . For those who aspire to a longer life span for the NI Assembly ( I don’t) -the election of SF to the FM position could be the ‘end of the road’ for the experiment .

    Ritchie will simply be unable to do more than manage the decline of the party as we see with the UUP . Unlike the UUP who have been thrown a temporary life line by the Conservatives there is nobody to throw a similar line to the SDLP . FF are beset on all sides in the Republic and are mostly preoccupied with trying to swim to the nearest political life buoy to save their own skins . The idea of risking their own necks to save the SDLP or anybody else would be an entirely foreign ideology to the fat and out of condition soldiers of destiny .

  • Boris

    Lapsed Stoop,

    Watch his campaign develop, watch the people who come out of the Woodwork to support him, they’ll be young and energetic.

    Take a look at his South Belfast staff, the majority of whom are over 30.

  • Boris

    Last post should have of course read, under 30, and no, it wasn’t a fraudian slip

  • Fabianus

    Presumably the second most important question is: “What is an apostrophe for when one isn’t a greengrocer?”

    Greenflag

    I think Margaret Ritchie is an effective Minister but she’s far too nice a person to lead the SDLP.

    I can’t believe you’re saying this! But I know what you mean. I had cause to visit the SDLP offices in Downpatrick when Margaret was “doing for” the “fat and out of condition” Eddie McGrady. I sensed even then that she was punching far below her weight.

    Your point apropos of Sinn Fein is well made. I can see how Richie is more like the courteous Seamus Mallon than Durkan is. And I think: Why not? Anything is better than the present Assembly arrangement, with thugs and thugesses holding the reins.

    Who votes for such people, and how can they confront themselves in the looking-glass of a morning?

  • Dec

    Brian

    Pretty comprehensive list of what ‘liberal Unionists’ want the SDLP stand for ie accepting partition and getting on with it? Any idea what the people who might actually vote for the SDLP want the party to stand for?

  • Brian Walker

    Dec, an intengrated policing and community plan? A shared future? just liberal unionism eh? Offer your own ideas. Might they be negative by any chance?

  • Reiker

    This will either be the final nail in the coffin or the throne for the SDLP. Both candidates need to get together and work out a solution. They are about to split the party asunder, and then the Shinners will likely take the FM at the next assembly.

    Other options include the early move of FF north

    The residue of the SDLP could become either Irish Labour or FF. Now that would be a really interesting scenario.

    Personally, I believe the SDLP should remain an grow. I prefer ‘Hot Air’ to ‘Dead Wood’. The safe option will continue the status quo which is currently a gentle slope towards oblivion. If the hot air fails, then it will be quicker execution but at least there is a chance that it will succeed and refloat the party.

    All this take about visions etc. are nice, but it will be hard work towards a new agenda which will stimulate the voters back

  • Lapsed Stoop

    Boris, I didn’t ask about his staff or his supporters in the woodwork. I asked for the identities of these young firebrands you say he is lining up for seats in Belfast. Are we allowed to know? It’s hardly going to raise their profile if we don’t know who they are. What’s the big secret?

  • P Craig

    Boris

    “Ritchies support isn’t in the big branches…”

    This is totally incorrect. In fact the opposite is the case.

  • interested young person

    Alisdair has done nothing but disencourage young people from politics and has never had an interest to try to engage young people. Unless your over 50, unfortunately you cannot be part of “Als Club.” Doctors and salaries over £50,000 only welcome!

  • eric

    “If they move away from a Social Democratic and Labour position then Labour will be more likely to enter, which is perhaps a reason not to move away from Labour values”.

    I think that would be a receipe for inertia. Clearer battle lines could be drawn if a McDonnell lead SDLP broke the link with the Labour Parties (letting go of the small Labour minded wing) and stuck out more agressively on a centre/centre-right agenda.

    Fianna Fail and the Alliance Party are now sister parties and the SDLP moving onto that territory might well give them a platform to strike out to the many stay at home middle class ex-SDLP voters, and the near lost “Green SDLP” wing and simultaneously neutralise and colonise these rivals.

    There is no quick fix for the SDLP, but you would be inclined to think whoever the SDLP’s establishment fears is probably the better candidate

  • kensei

    Brian

    Dec, an intengrated policing and community plan? A shared future? just liberal unionism eh? Offer your own ideas. Might they be negative by any chance?

    The thing is, by “Shared Future” Brian, you mean, “accepting partition and getting on with it” see:

    Try putting flesh on the bones of an Agreed Ireland than thrash around for an unattainable united one.

    “an intengrated policing and community plan?” – perhaps you are advising the SDLP to tell the Catholic middle class that they are going to gut their schools? That they are jumping into bed with a CUMBLA that is you know, um, conserative? A vigorous embrace of what the DUP wants on parading? Telling a lot of civil servcie employees they are cutting their jobs and aren’t even going to attract some FDI to take up the slack?

    Dec’s point is perfectly valid. They need to address some of those issues but they need to do so in a joined up manner and balance pain with potential benefits elsewhere. They need some eye catching ideas – how about moving schools towards a digital world and give every kid in secondary education a laptop? Progressive, reflects the way the world is, nevermind going and offers various opportunities for learning and innovation and shouldn’t actually cost too much if you consider the price of a netbook these days and the potential for eBooks. They need to stop looking weak.

    They also need to have some kind of joined up all Ireland strategy that amkes them relevant and believable as a vehicle towards unity. I know by reading this site you’d be convinced no one cares, but the death of nationalism is still somewhat short of happening.

  • Dec

    Dec, an intengrated policing and community plan? A shared future? just liberal unionism eh? Offer your own ideas. Might they be negative by any chance?

    Depends whether or not you think being a strident Nationalist party is negative -( I assume you do given your reference to thrashing around for an unattainable United Ireland)? There seems to be a pretty good opportunity for the SDLP to at least attempt to retain the mantle of the main Nationalist party especially when SF’s current strategy appears to be leading the Nationalist community back to the ‘good old days’ of Brookeborough’s 1950’s.
    However maybe your thesis that they should morph into the Alliance Party and not frighten any Unionist horses, is the correct one.

  • Fabianus

    interested young person

    Doctors and salaries over £50,000 only welcome!

    Are you certain? I know several working-class people who’ve always voted SDLP. Mind you, the thought has often crossed my mind that theirs were protest anti-SF votes.

  • Brian Walker

    kensei and dec, The SDLP have never been a party that put unity first. They came nearest to it when they found to their surprise, that at Sunningdale the Hume agenda for a wide-ranging Council of Ireland was accepted. This lasted for about five minutes. Thereafter, the party embraced the ambiguities of an agreed Ireland. Constructively I would suggest. Can either of you explain to me how constituional unity can be reconciled with the consent principle enshrined in the basic law, the GFA? I ask this as an open question. It is not unionist code for croppies lie down. Nor do I mean that unity is forever inconceivable. I do believe that nationalists risk losing out on the good by holding out for a visionary best. I suggest the three stranded relationship should be enough for now – a developing north -south relationship, an ever warmer British-Irish relationship based on equal respect and the Republic as a highly involved co-guarantor. Encourage Irish institutional links without aspiring to cut the British links and see where you have reached in a generation’s time. A win:win rather than zero sum. I know one problem with this, it’s not emotionally satisfying enough; it’s about building a functional relationship rather than a love affair. But if you could only leave off the hankering and engage on a wider front, I truly believe you’d get more emotional satisfaction. Forgive me if I’m treading too hard on your dreams.

  • kensei

    Brian

    I suspect many in the SDLP woudl be offended at the suggestion they are not propa Nationalists.

    Can either of you explain to me how constituional unity can be reconciled with the consent principle enshrined in the basic law, the GFA? I ask this as an open question.

    You get 50%+1 in a referendum. Like how Salmond needs 50%+1 in a referendum for what he wants. Now, was that hard?

    I do believe that nationalists risk losing out on the good by holding out for a visionary best. I suggest the three stranded relationship should be enough for now

    Unionist in likes Unionism shocka. News at 10.

    Forgive me if I’m treading too hard on your dreams.

    No. I just you know, happen to believe in stuff like Republican governemnt and self determiantion and [problems are betrter solevd in an All Ireland context. So I listen, just in case there is somethig sueful or inetresting, but when you start going on about how you should give up those silly ideas about unity, it’s just Yes, dear, ignore.

    I have had discussions on Open Unionism that is on a slightly different track, but the same thing is at the heart: you don’t actually respect the integrity of the position apparently unable to grasp taht um, I don’t think I have more emotional satisfaction with most of the important laws made by England for England.

  • Brian Walker

    No, Kensei, 50%+1 is the only possible measure for a referendum result, true, but is no referendum strategy. Ask Alex Salmond for one. 800,0000 disgruntled Prods and all that and a Republic that takes fright at the prospect.. Even if you would deplore it, there would be a settled wider margin of a majority before holding any referendum and lots of intermediate fudging. It might to fun to play scenarios and takle the heat out of the debate but not here. Your light sarcasm suggests an unwarranted complacency, that your belief is so obviously right. It aint necessarily so, as you must somewhere have noticed. This leaves you with the problem I suggest, not me: where do you go from here? I’ve made my suggestions; what are yours? You seem to think that somehow you represent a present, living reality. I don’t wish to rub your face in it but you don’t. It is a decent aspiration, a preference, an identity that stretches across states which many including me share to a lesser degree. btw I think I offend only the most delicate of flowers. As you will have noticed, nationalism throughout the ages is a broad church (one indeed that has fought its own wars of religion) and is by no means synonymous with unity in our time.

  • J Kelly

    A lot has been made of Ritchie having South Down and Foyle i don’t know much about south down but i can tell you that Pat Ramsey is supporting Big Al and he still has quite a bit of influence in Derry.

    If this comes down to husting meetings in local areas i am sure that big al would wipe the floor with ritchie across the north. It far from over.

  • Dave

    You don’t need 800,000 people in a small state who don’t recognise the right of a nation to self-government to make that state ungovernable when 50,000 or less will do a damn good job. In reality, you will never get below 90% of the British nation to renounce their right to national self-determination, and even if you invented a pro-Irish drug that worked on 90% of them, the other 10% would be enough reality to make unity between two incompatible nations impossible. That just leaves repartition or a continuance of the status quo. Either option works.

  • Brian Walker

    Why this itching for yet more constitutional change after the past 30 years? Do you really think any significan number of the public want it. Making work what’s been painfully negotiated is what’s needed. All the rest is marginal talk. Something about a blog that encourages it..

  • kensei

    Brian

    No, Kensei, 50%+1 is the only possible measure for a referendum result, true, but is no referendum strategy. Ask Alex Salmond for one.

    How do you win an referendum you never want to fight, fo a result you have parked? How does copper fastening partition bring about unity?

    All very zen Brian. Perhaps my greatest annoyance is sage and homily advice form people who um, don’t actually want anything like I want.

    800,0000 disgruntled Prods and all that and a Republic that takes fright at the prospect.. Even if you would deplore it, there would be a settled wider margin of a majority before holding any referendum and lots of intermediate fudging.

    The consequences of a successful vote on unity not leading to it would be a bloody civil war. Moreover, given that every promise made to Nationalists here would have been broken, and that democracy would have been decisively overturned, it might well be justified. I say that without desire or passion. It is simply a fact.

    It might to fun to play scenarios and takle the heat out of the debate but not here. Your light sarcasm suggests an unwarranted complacency, that your belief is so obviously right.

    Some beliefs are axiomatic, Brian. That how you have things like an ideology and political basis. I know conviction is passe, but what can you do? Republican government falls under that remit. As does the undesirable of another nation making your laws. I’m not even a fan of the subsidy. It is a long term bad thing.

    And actually, you don’t need a huge Protestant support. Just acquiescence. And I don’t believe a majority for unity can be built without some notable Protestant or current Unionist support. That entails addressing some of the things you care about and changing, but it is coming at them from a different angle and with different purpose.

    It aint necessarily so, as you must somewhere have noticed. This leaves you with the problem I suggest, not me: where do you go from here? I’ve made my suggestions; what are yours? You seem to think that somehow you represent a present, living reality. I don’t wish to rub your face in it but you don’t. It is a decent aspiration, a preference, an identity that stretches across states which many including me share to a lesser degree. btw I think I offend only the most delicate of flowers. As you will have noticed, nationalism throughout the ages is a broad church (one indeed that has fought its own wars of religion) and is by no means synonymous with unity in our time.

    What needs to be done? Well first the Southern state needs to get out of its mess and offer an attractive option. You’d occasionally hear business people speak admiringly of Dublin on things like Let’s Talk during the boom years. In the North, Nationalists need to prove to be effective and fair governors. They need to work out sensible cross border policies, and encourage cross border movement, especially around it. They need to combat the idea in the South that the north has nothing going for it. They need to start winning arguments, and making generally cases for things like republicanism. The walls need to come down. They need to start going places they’ve never been before and sticking the flack and working for people. Without being aggressive, they need to become open to the other side. If people are curious, then they the stance should be welcoming rather than frightening. And they have to do that form a secure base, rather than one where people constantly feel their identity under attack.

    It’s all very general but I’m a bum on the internet. Some of that will require changes. Some of that will tally with what you want. An that’s how you work: form mutual self interest. not requiring me to submit to your vision. It doesn’t work, it;s condescending and disrespectful.

    Which for all their moaning about us, sums up Unionist position perfectly. They just don’t respect nationalism. It’s okay if you want to do it over there. Just you know, don’t try it in anger. The current reality is: I am an Irish citizen and my right as that is enshrined in law. A 50%+1 referendum will legally end partition. The political situation here gives my representatives a veto over anything we don’t like and they are free to work the systems as best they can to bring around unity. Where Unionismlikes it or not.

  • URQUHART

    This thread appears to have been taken over by swots. Which is a great shame, as I haven’t been around in a while and wanted just to comment on the actual post.

    People who’ve been around for a while will know that I have been among Margaret Ritchie’s staunchest supporters in the past. And I remain so.

    But I believe that Brian Feeney has summed up the choice better than anyone else to date. Margaret appears to have allowed herself to be used by the ABBA crowd – Any Body But Alasdair. Which is unfortunate because she is one of the few ‘leading lights’ in the SDLP that would have nothing to fear from a McDonnell leadership.

    She should remain as the SDLP’s minister, delivering her agenda and winding up the DUP and Sinn Fein in equal measure; while the party leadership should go to McDonnell – he’s the only person willing and able to give it the kick in the arse it needs.

  • Erasmus

    The UI issue has been thrown into this debate.
    There is one elephant in the room here: the contrasting perceptions of both N.I. nationalist parties in the south. This has an obvious spillover in terms of their respective UI credentials.
    The fact is that the SDLP *connect*. People instinctively and intuitively identify with them – like long-cherished relations. SF, by contrast, come still have a repellant aura of semtex. Southerners, with some justification, tend to be perplexed by the popularity (among N.I. nationalists) of Sinn Fein whose armed wing has, inter alia, despatched members of the southern security forces.
    I think the whole thing boils down to support for the SDLP who have kept alive the tradition of honourable republicanism in Northern Ireland.

  • Brian Walker

    kensei, Just to be clear. No government Irish or British is likely to back a referendum call until they are satisfied there is a settled, comfortable majority for unity. I agree that is a difficult judgment call and not one either gov wishes foreseeeably to face. Of course, no referendum result could possibly be denied. I don’t presume to deny your indiviudal rights. I’m only querying your right to play God with the rest of us. If unity is “axiomatic” to you, a given of nature, you have to admit it isn’t to a substantial majority including many of those who would quite like it. Among the intellectual republicans, Pearse, a humane and idealistic figure, was as much frustrated with his compatriots as with the Brits and he mightn’t be the best model to follow. Taking the democratic road means hard compromise made easier perhaps by the appreciation of real gains. It requires working the reformed system with integity rather than opting out.

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    ‘That just leaves repartition or a continuance of the status quo’

    As the status quo is going nowhere anyway and as it’ll be bottoms up for the Assembly anyway when SF take the FM position post the next election then that just leaves ‘repartition’

    There is of course the option of Direct Rule which was not considered satisfactory before by the local NI politicians, but it may appeal now to the majority of NI voters especially nationalists who benefitted so much from the last extended period of DR. And given the ‘games’ being played between the DUP & SF at Stormont these past several months /years such appeal may grow rather than weaken .

  • Greenflag

    brian walker ,

    ‘Making work what’s been painfully negotiated is what’s needed. All the rest is marginal talk.’

    Yes the rest is marginal talk but as Churchill said jaw jaw is preferable to the alternative although I’ll admit that in the case of 40 years of NI jaw even Churchill might be prepared to make an exception to his famous one liner .

    Has the thought struck per chance that what has painfully been ‘negotiated’ may just not be workable . Not because of the bloody minded obstinacy of both sides in NI , which should always be taken as a given but simply because technically , politically, psychologically , the system is so convoluted and riddled with having to be all things to all parties that it will end up meaning nothing to nobody ? There are not many tears waiting to be shed at any future demise of Stormont.

    ‘No government Irish or British is likely to back a referendum call until they are satisfied there is a settled, comfortable majority for unity.’

    Sounds right to me . And it also sounds so far away that it’s academic for the here and now.