Why is the SDLP still wet-nursing Johnny-Come-Lately converts to Policing & Justice?

After playing the unofficial bag carriers to a larger constitutency rival, Tom Kelly argues in Monday’s Irish News that the SDLP would be better off prosecuting their case from the backbenches and that their ‘opposition in government’ is failing badly…

the real challenge of the week lies at the door of the SDLP’s Ormeau Road HQ or in the in-trays of the two pretenders for the SDLP crown of thorns. For some the forthcoming SDLP leadership election is an internal party political debate but, truly, only the politically devotional, deluded or desperate can believe that. The issue of the criminal justice system and the devolution of its powers loom ominously not only over the heads of the political process but of the architects of that process – the SDLP.

There is an expectation that some of the architects within the SDLP are still so in love with their design (and designers) that they will once again roll over and settle for a belly tickle from the political establishment for accepting their lot as good sons of the Belfast Agreement. This policy was always geared for about as much political success as the British strategy to exit Afghanistan.

But why is the SDLP still wet-nursing Johnny-Come-Lately converts some 11 years after the agreement? As one commentator put it, “the SDLP, having no umbilical cord to either sectarianism or terrorism, have somehow evolved into political guardians to the offspring of both camps”.

Increasingly the SDLP appear to spare the blushes of Sinn Fein in their fractious and at times subservient relationship to the DUP by providing a much-needed pan-nationalist political fig leaf. By perpetuating the bridesmaid role they have blurred their demarcation lines with Sinn Fein and the electorate has interpreted this as a willingness to play second fiddle to an all tin whistle band.

In terms of electoral benefit this policy is a bankrupt as the coffers of an Irish bank.

Unless the lure of ministerial Skodas is just too appealing, whoever leads the SDLP must decide sooner rather than later whether one ministerial seat still justifies their continued presence in the northern executive.

Ambitious SDLP young Turks would be better suited to cutting their teeth on the opposition benches. The ‘opposition in government’ strategy as a junior partner is too complex a farce for the public to understand and looks like shadow-boxing. Having rattled the cages and, despite warnings not to take them for granted, the SDLP has tended to bark rather than bite.

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  • Wake up Maggie

    Awwww, Mick. What a pity. You must have run out of room to quote the other key part of Tom Kelly’s article:

    “Despite Alliance bleats, a shared future is unobtainable when equal opportunity is continually denied to the nationalist community from the executive table down.”

    Fancy telling us your view on that Mick?

  • granni trixie

    Tom Kelly is just as uninformed as co supporter of the SDLP, Fionulla OConnor,was on her reading Alliance….like rude children not getting their way “we wus robbed” seems to be their bleat with a breathtaking sense of entitlement to P&J ministry.

    For the record, Alliance,at all levels debate long and hard as to the risks and merits of taking on such a role and the rank and file have a range of positions although probably there is now consensus that not to do so would be irresponsible. I believe that should Alliance take on the P&J ministry it would not be for ‘strategic selfish reasons’.

    As for O’Connors “they [Alliance] have a cheek” BBC comments,she had a cheek – as a journalist she ought to have been asking herself why were people turning to Alliance for such a sensitive post. Pragmatism,certainly but also look at evidence showing Alliance has always punched above their numerical strength – 2 Speakers, numerus first cross community Lord Mayors to mention just a few. Could be people trust them to do a good job?

    And why would Alliance not ask for a period of consensus building by all the parties on what the P&J programme should be? (leading UU who are now calling for this). Why not draw attention to the need to impliment shared future policies? To me this is conviction politics in action.

    And without wanting to get into whataboutery rants, there are many Alliance supporters who have lead the way to make NI a fairer society, Bob Cooper to mention but one…for them a Alliance justice minister woiuld be ..just.

  • bernie

    or the part about the ambitious media savvy blogger fighting for the scraps off the table in the “exciting” south belfast contest! selective indeed!

  • J Kelly

    When are we going to hear to hear the end of stoops claiming that the world began when they wrote the Good Friday Agreement. Tom Kelly has to take some of the responsibility for the woes of the SDLP he was one of those who helped push Hume and Mallon after the 2001 British General Election in 2001 and to talk of young turks in the sdlp cutting his their teeth on the back benches who are the young turks he speaks of. At present the youngest turk that the sdlp have is retiring.

    If the sdlp go into opposition would they have to forfeit their chairs and vice chairs of the scrutiny committees.


  • TKBytesback

    I am sorry the Alliance of Bob Cooper’s era is not the one of today. Today’s NIAP is a much more unionist place under its present leadership and if it is so cross community where are all its seats in Armagh, Derry, Strabane, West Belfast, Newry etc.
    And JK in 2001 I was amongst the first to recognise the impact of the SDLP policy re: Sinn Fein and as part of the election directorate then and after the election I took responsibilty and called the Sinn Fein victory for what it was- a victory. Others until then called it a blip. Voters were apparently lending their votes to SF. It was a load of bollocks. Some of those who sat on Hume’s coat-tails r-appeared yesterday were happy when the going was good but got off side as the strategy crumbled. Others prefered to bitch behind Hume’s back and sulk. That was not for me. I argued back then for transition – indeed as I do now. I argued for Mallon to succeed Hume for three to five years and then build capacity and change political tack- Once Mallon had the time he could have moulded the party for change. People forget that Hume was ill back then and had been 22 years leader as of the SDLP at the time. It was time for Hume to go.. no planning when into thinking what about post Hume.. no thought went into transition..positions then were being sought to block others – just as they are now. Personally while my heart lies somewhere with the SDLP more importantly with some of my shared memories with friends in the party..I am my head tells me to let it go and wait for the inevitable new political dynamic from new entrants ( my preference) or Sinn Fein going even more main stream. In five years time Sinn Fein will have less Bogey men (and women) in public office and if they get their policies right be more appealing to the wider nationalist community. Its a pity if that happens at the expense of the SDLP.. it was n’t why I spent 23 years in SDLP.

  • DC

    “Why is the SDLP still wet-nursing Johnny-Come-Lately converts to Policing & Justice?”

    Might be the same reason as to why they have no leader – a lack of leadership perhaps?

  • J Kelly

    I have always been of the opinion that the SDLP were made up of a bunch of people with many and varied political views but had one thing in common and that was opposition to physical force republicanism. With no opposition and no power it was good but since the cessation of 94 the strains and differences come to the fore more and more often. The political differences usualy end up being put down to personality differences rather than a serious look at the issues. Again many people have put Margaret Ritchie up to running for leader becausse they don’t like big al. I said on an earlier thread on slugger that externally the sdlp need big al but internally they need margaret this observation bears out your point of no transition the same people who annointed durkan are behind ritchie and it will be more of the same. If people like you are now looking towards sinn fein then matbe their demise could be sooner than we think or hoped.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Anyone seeking the truth wont find it in SF