SDLP takes centre stage in Panto season with P&J nomination

Both the BBC & UTV are reporting on a decision by the SDLP to nominate Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie as their nomination to the Policing and Justice Ministry.

Criticism of Mark Durkan often centres around his over-intellectualised style and lack of common touch but rarely is he accused of committing glaring strategic blunders.

The SDLP were on firm ground attacking Sinn Féin on their stitch-up with the DUP and the appointment of an Alliance Minister for P&J. SF were starting to get nervous of their cosiness with the DUP evidenced by their newfound love for the Parades Commission after the SDLP correctly identified it as a sacrificial lamb grazing blissfully in the Castlereagh hills.

However SF can now ‘wholeheartedly’ support whichever name the SDLP put forward in the chamber safe in the knowledge the nomination will not attract unionist backing before an Alliance MLA is rowed home in the cross-community boat. It will be a pantomime comparable to the First Executive (that never was).

As the nominating officer that is Durkan’s mistake, although if reports are true by accepting the nomination clearly Ritchie has bought into whatever the strategy is.

Whether it is Durkan or indeed Ritchie who has to sell this farce to the SDLP faithful I would envy neither’s task…

  • John O’Connell

    Can anyone decipher what Cusack is getting excited about?

    If the SDLP shouldn’t have nominated, what were they going to say when the SF/DUP alliance simply ignored them telling them to stop huffing?

  • Peter

    I agree with John,
    Cusak I don’t understand your arguement, in fact I see the nomination as a very clever move!
    The SDLP had to nominate for the reasons John suggests, so nominating Ritchie will mean the Assembly is forced to choose between, a popular, experienced Minister who in the past has stood up to the UDA, Peter and Marty, or an Alliance MLA with no executive experience and who’s willing to do anything Peter asks in order to get the job.

  • Mark McGregor


    Yes. The shinners can easily vote for Ritchie – she won’t get ‘cross-community’ support. The process then moves to another nominee, the DUP/SF approved Alliance candidate as it seems the UUP have decided not to nominate – recognising this for the sham it is.

    The SDLP have effectively neutralised their own strongest card by nominating – the selection process should have been run under d’hondt.

    A proper political balls up from the SDLP – again

  • Cusack


    As far as i was aware the SDLP’s contention was that they should have been entitled to the Ministry under d’Hondt but perhaps you will correct me?

    The strategy should have been simple… restart or continue d’Hondt or we ain’t playing.

    Even David McNarry managed to avoid the role of Widow Twankie in this production and that’s rare!!

  • Mark McGregor

    You know, its even worse. SF can even nominate Ritchie themselves safe in the knowledge they can vote for her and get Ford anyhow.

    Stunning stupidity.

  • Glen Taisie

    Although the SF/DUP stitch up prevents the post never going to the SDLP, Alban would have been a more strategic nomination. Given his barrister background he is easily the most qualified and able of all the 108 MLAs.
    The SDLP strapline of “no nationalist need apply” would carry more weight, nominating an existing Minister is not really too strategic

  • slug

    I will beg to differ from the various political anorack points above which all focus on selfish party political strategy rather than deeper political values.

    Do the SDLP think P&J should be devolved? YES
    Do they want the job? YES

    Given that the above are the SDLP’s established position, it would not be consistent not to nominate.

  • Mark McGregor


    By nominating while raising the very valid d’hondt card and overall intention to hand the position to Alliance, the SDLP just gave SF a huge get out of gaol free card. SF will just endorse the nomination, vote for her and when she falls at the cross-community endorsement fence – it is over to the already agreed Ford (or anyone else Alliance fancy putting forward).

    Ritchie as noted above has just revealed an absence of political ability when it comes to the big picture by accepting the nomination and handed cards to SF, the DUP, Alliance and more importantly her challenger in the leadership contest.

    Huge fail for Ritchie. Was she knobbled?

  • spiritof07

    Mistake by the Attwood / Ritchie team. No doubt about it.

    Margaret has told the party faithful during the leadership campaign that if she wins she will resign her DSD Ministry to concentrate on leading the SDLP. So if she won’t be a Minister come february – if she wins – why accept this nomination?


    Margaret is not serious about her leadership bid;
    The party is not serious about seeking P&J; or,
    Margaret has seen Alasdair getting the momentum and the delegates and has concluded she is going to lose the leadership. That is something more experienced political observors have seen coming for some time.

    Big mistake for Ritchie / Attwood / Durkan.

    Anyone surprised?

  • Brendan,Belfast

    I don’t see the political strategy behind this one at all. For either the party and it’s approah to police and justice devolution, which it had been playing well until now, or for Margaret and her leadership effort (see post above).

    Martina Purdy said on Evening Extra it may have been done to boost Margareat Ritchie’s profile. If that is the case it is a very shallow way to approach a very important topic.

  • Mark,
    What happens if, for some reason, not all the DUP MLA’s are present when the vote occurs?

  • John O’Connell


    As far as i was aware the SDLP’s contention was that they should have been entitled to the Ministry under d’Hondt but perhaps you will correct me?

    I believe the SDLP gave up on that argument a long time ago. When they brought the subject up, they were told that it wasn’t on the cards. If its not on the cards, why persist in trying to play the same hand?

    You’re out of date, I think. Your argument was good yesterday. It doesn’t stand up today.

    THe DUP/SF would just have ignored the SDLP’s cry of foulplay.

  • Cusack


    Fair enough. I wouldn’t want to mislead sluggerites with my ‘out of date analysis’.

    Just out of interest on what basis do you think the SDLP now believe they are entitled to the P&J Ministry then? Was it their 15% of the popular vote? No? then perhaps it was their 1 out of 10 existing Executive seats? Getting closer? Maybe it is their 16 out of 108 Assembly seats?

    Don’t forget to enlighten us all though when you figure it out…

    On a related issue I came home this evening, a member of my family (a non-political anorak) had heard the BBC headlines (i.e. ‘how most normal people digest news’)was under two misconceptions.

    1. Margaret Ritchie was going to be the Justice Minister – (i’ll overlook that one)
    2. SF were supporting her

    I admire your faith in the SDLP come election time articulating the fineries as to how SF weren’t genuinely supportive of their nomination.

    SF will simply repeat the line ad nauseum ‘we supported the SDLP nomination first’.

  • Nollaig a chara

    Peter who is the popular minister that ur refering to because i sure hope its not Margret Ritchie ur pinning ur hopes on

  • TKbytesback

    I have never come across a more stunning own goal by the SDLP. As someone who votes SDLP I think that voters deserve better than the student union antics of those obviously directing the SDLP’s strategic moves. To be honest Margaret Ritchie’s all too recent conversion to this type of nonsense is mind boggling! The issue here was about equality..SF knew that.. the DUP knew that.. SF were hurting by that .. and the UUP gave the SDLP to stick to D’hondt! If u did not get Justice at least you got another Ministry by a re-run! Some days soon the so called strategists in the SDLP will look around and no one will be following…SF get a get of jail card and Marty and Peter get to go off and give NI a solution..if this is SDLP leadership then God help us

  • The Dude

    Has no one ever heard the saying “if i’m going down i’m taking every mother with me”? Durkan just announced last week that he was standing again in Derry for his MP job at the next election when he is no longer Party leader. (How that squares with wanting to spend more time with one’s family, the reason used for quitting the SDLP in the first place is beyond me). It’s clear as mud, Durkan is actually a SF plant and has been successfully destroying the Party since he took over. All he has to do when the train comes off the rails and explodes in flames, is walk across the floor to his natural home where he will be faited by the new SDLP, Sinn Fein.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Policing and Justice by Christmas the movie.

    Church Bells are ringing…Dong! Dong! Dong!

    Snow is falling heavily on the top deck of Craigavon Bridge, it is Christmas Eve and Derry people are rushing home to get ready for Christmas.

    Through the drifting snow we see the tormented figure of a man, a man about to end it all in the icy waters of the River Foyle.

    That lonely and tormented figure is Marty McGuinness MLA and Deputy Co-Joint First Minister…

    “Clarence! Clarence! Get me Policing and Justice I don’t care what it takes!

    Above the howling of the wind a faint tune can be heard far away at first, but getting closer…

    “Always look on the Bright side of Life…Wee Woo…Wee Woo…Wee Woo…Wee Woo!”

    “Is that you Clarence have you got your wings and come to grant me my wish?”

    A Bearded figure emerges from the swirling snow…The figure grabs Marty by the collar and pushes him back over the railings….

    “YEEEEeeeeeeeeeah!” SPLASH!

    Someone joins the Bearded figure….a buxom young girl with a Dublin accent…

    “Does that mean you got me a job after all Gerry?”

    Just then they hear a bell ring. The buxom Dublin girl says;

    “Listen Gerry every time a bell rings an angel gets it’s wings!”

    “Aye it’s a pity Marty didn’t get his Policing and Justice!”

    Fade out Auld Lang Syne….’Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And never brought to mind?’

  • slug

    Why on earth is it so significant whether SF support the SDLP bid for the ministry or not?

    This is all very unimportant stuff folks!

  • John O’Connell


    Do you really think it matters all that much in the grand scheme of things? The SDLP would be the whingers who never get anything (said in a mocking tone).

  • tkbytesback

    Slug . it does not matter .. SF should be protecting the principle of equality. ie D’hondt. SF cannot not get Justice. The SDLP should get Justice under D hondt which respected the validity of the respective strength of a party’s vote..on an equal basis.. so either apply Justice on D’Hondt or re-run D’Hondt. There will be more nationalists at the table. The SDLP crap means that Peter and marty get to be referee and dismantle D’Hondt

  • Danny O’Connor

    What if the Ulster Unionists support her,It would prove that SF had given the DUP a veto,the issue then is what will Alliance do when asked to support someone who has a democatic mandate entitling them to the next ministerial position or will they support the stitch up.
    Incidentally it would be interesting to see if the DUP would support Sean Neeson or Kieran McCarthy.

  • [i]Margaret has seen Alasdair getting the momentum and the delegates and has concluded she is going to lose the leadership.[/i]

    I doubt it given that she got around 70% of the branches indicating their support for her.

    Not sure what this latest move means so it will be interesting to see how it is played out. I wonder how the DUP are going to justify David Ford against someone who actually has ministerial experience.

  • Danny O’Connor

    As I know only too well ,elections are hard to call,but as I see this one it could be 10-20 votes.As you know branch numbers mean nothing,it is the number of delegates each branch has,some branches have not yet indicated a preference.

  • Danny O’Connor

    It is all to play for at this stage,but I have to say that some of us on the ground are surprised at this latest move,and we have to live with it until we get a new leader,what we don’t need is more of the same.Durkan is a good man of great intellect,but a shite leader,in the same way that Hume lost the plot Durkan never found it.

  • Seymour Major

    Whilst I understand the arguments, I’m finding it hard to make up my mind whether this was a strategic blunder or not, or indeed, whether this really matters as a political point scoring exercise. If the SDLP had not nominated, the Shinners could say ‘we would have voted for an SDLP nominee if there was one’.

    Meanwhile, the Alliance Party has put up two obstacles for its own nomination. One is that there is a programme agreed for P & J (perhaps that will not be a problem). The other condition is that there has to be an agreed policy on sectarianism. At the moment, it seems the DUP and Sinn Fein can not agree on that

    It seems to me that the way things are going, the Alliance Party is not going to have a nominee.

    As Danny (no 21) has suggested, it is entirely plausible that the UUP would support Ritchie. In fact, I believe it is in their best interests to do so.

  • PeterL

    The assertion that the SDLP is entitled to the P&J ministry under D’Hont is total nonsense, (power sharing for slow learners) that I would have expected the ever-so scrupulous and scrutinous sluggerites to have dispensed with long before now.

    D’Hont has nothing to say on the addition of a new ministry, it is a mechanism for allocating an already given number of positions/ministerial posts that attempts to reflect relative levels of mandate.

    There is only one way to allocate P&J that is truly consistent with D’Hont and that would result in a DUP minister. Sinn Fein has successfully negotiated that possibility off the table.

    Yes, D’Hont would mean that in exchange for a DUP P&J minister, the SDLP might get an extra spot. If they were honest with the electorate (or perhaps, more honestly, the nationalist electorate) they would argue that point, but neither faction is prepared to do so – sensibly I think. The rest is sound and fury.

  • Danny O’Connor

    What planet are you living on.It may well be that if d’hondt was re-run another party would take P&J but that would still leave the sdlp with 2 ministers.As for SF negotiating that principle off the table,I doubt if those negotiators could get drunk in a distillery with 500 quid.What they have done is to ensure that the ministry is outside the normal process which gives both them and the DUP a veto,whhich would mean that even if it is devolved now there is no plan B for after the next elections.We could be sitting here in 2 years time with a devolved power and no minister to administer it.The DUP dont care if everybody has a veto-as long as they have.And they have because those experienced SF negotiators put it on a plate and tied a nice ribbon around it for them.

  • igor

    “SF should be protecting the principle of equality”

    ……. ha ha ha ha

    ……. next please

  • igor

    Personally I think that the DUP and UUP could pull a fast one. Let the nomination process proceed then suddenly switch to Ritche and watch SF squirm

  • aquifer

    An inspired choice. Safe on Sinn Fein, and no love for paramilitary extortioneers. Lets roll.

  • Brendan,Belfast

    nineteensixtyseven – you wrote,

    “I doubt it given that she got around 70% of the branches indicating their support for her.”

    I am going to save that comment and post it again in February. I look forward to your response then.

  • Expenses111

    What is the story with the SDLP leadership contest? Has it got dirty yet?

  • Expenses111

    The Dude said “Durkan is actually a SF plant and has been successfully destroying the Party since he took over”
    How true

  • PeterL

    Drinking aside, Danny, you don’t really seem to disagree with what I said.

    ‘It may well be that if d’hondt was re-run another party would take P&J but that would still leave the sdlp with 2 ministers.’ Precisely. The assertion that the SDLP are entitled to P&J is either a lie or a pretty piss poor understanding of D’Hont. It might see the SDLP claim a second ministry – which might be in its interests as a party (although it would be interesting to see who would get it) but it is much less clear that it would be in the interest of its voters.

  • [i]nineteensixtyseven – you wrote,

    “I doubt it given that she got around 70% of the branches indicating their support for her.”

    I am going to save that comment and post it again in February. I look forward to your response then[/i]

    May I ask why? I said that in response to spiritof07 (and it is a true figure from nominations) to rebute his point that Margaret thinks she is going to lose.

    Never did I say Margaret was going to win and I agree with Danny that the election will be close. Branches nominations do not suggest that Margaret will win, merely that spiritof07’s assertion is ridiculous.

    So I honestly don’t know what point you are trying to make or what you are hoping to achieve by quoting a figure at me in February which will still be true but does not have a precise correlation to the number of delegate votes due to the variance in branch sizes. Care to enlighten me?

  • JoMax

    Brendan, if you are who I think you are (work in ‘governmental affairs’?), I don’t think you have been active in any sense in the SDLP for at least the last decade, maybe twelve years, since you left paid employment with the party. You’re just spinning

    I also think that you and TK should declare any business relationship you might have had, or have, with either SDLP leadership candidate.

    TK, I don’t think the Ritchie nomination is a “massive own goal”. The public don’t give a toss about who becomes Justice Minister and the manoeuvering going on. They know that Sinn Fein (especially) and the DUP will do anything to stop the SDLP getting the Ministry.

    But, TK, I’ll tell you what is a “massive own goal”. You are a member or supporter of Fianna Fail, the Republican Party, though how that squares with your membership of The Most Exalted Order of the British Empire beats me. You want FF to absorb the SDLP which would mean the SDLP leaving the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International.

    Guess which party would then rush to join PES/SI to wash away their sordid past? Yep, got it in one, the Provos. That’s what I call an “own goal”.

    When you signed up for the SDLP years ago, maybe you should have realised the name what the name means: Social-Democratic-and-Labour. If you want to join a liberal or free market party (a perfectly legitimate choice), go find one. But, please, stop standing on the outside making juvenile remarks about cappuchino drinkers. One Brian Feeney is more than enough for this world.

    BTW, do you know that FF’s sister party up here is the Alliance Party?

  • Brendan,Belfast

    Jomax I am not sure who you think I am but I am pertty sure who I am. And I am also pretty sure I am perfectly entitled to hold and express views on the SDLP or any other political issue I wish, on what is after all a political blog.

    Business relationships with either candidate? None. Knocked a few doors and delivered a few seminars in a voluntary basis for both in the last couple of years, but why is that important?

  • tkbytesback

    I dont know you but unlike you I dont hide my views under an assumed name. if you want to debate any of the matters you raise grow up and do it like an adult. i have carried out all my work for the SDLP for free – especially for Margaret. Maybe you would be better staying off the coffee! And PS I have no business relationship with either candidate so stop peddling lies.

  • Northern Friend

    Ladies, ladies! Not knowing what most of the last few posters are talking about, I’d like to return to the point of Cusack’s pretty insightful post.

    The question, as I understand it, is whether nominating M.R. as the SDLP’s candidate for P&J was a good or a bad move.

    As nothing more than an interested observer reading this thread, I’d have to say that argument that it was a crazy move is pretty compelling. The only opposing argument that I can make out is that it will focus the P&J debate onto M.R.

    Apart from Margaret’s leadership campaign, who or what does this benefit? I’m genuinely open to enlightenment.

  • Dave

    Northern Friend, I guess it all depends on how stupid they think the public are. The arguments is that if the Shinners vote for the SDLP candidate then the public will think they did not support the exclusion of a nationalist minister from the post. Therefore, the SDLP will have let the Shinners off the hook that the DUP put them on by insisting that they must agree with the DUP position that nationalists are not fit to hold the justice portfolio. Are the public that thick?

  • granni trixie

    “Peter” re Alliance MLA “willing to do anything to get the post: All the evidence points to the opposite. The terms Alliance is asking for is an agreed policy on P & J. If accepting the MInstry,this is not in self interest but in the interstes in all the community.

  • borden

    What is concerning me folks is that Councillor Bernie Kelly was not nominated as Carmel Hanna’s replacement. Pretty incomprehensible stuff.

  • Diogenes

    Is it not indicative of the predicament that the SDLP currently finds itself in that while double-jobbing is such a political hot potato, the Minister for Social Development has so publicly submitted application forms for not one but two other posts?! How high on her agenda does she now place the job that we are actually paying her to do? It appears that regardless of all the issues she could be resolving (a shared future, the housing crisis, urban regeneration to name just a few) Margaret is intent on moving on up. Of course it could be that she believes that her work is done in social development and like the littlest hobo, having solved all of these issues single handedly she’s off to sort out the SDLP…or Policing and Justice…or both, depending on who’ll have her. Mind you, like many people relying on Margaret in her current incarnation, the littlest hobo needed a roof over their head too.

  • Ciaran Mc Clean

    Man, this is tedious, who cares about the what the SDLP are doing at the moment? The fact that they allowed the Shinners to steal their wardrobe whilst they gazed at themselves in the bedroom mirror is all that anyone needs to know. There is a new SDLP – they are called Sinn Fein! What part of that sentence do some people not get. Nationalism was always a crap ideology even when Saint John was running the ship. It is still a crap ideology now that Gerry is at the helm. The product sucks as much today as it did 40 years ago. Ms Richey or whoever else gets the post deserve what they get, a big bag of nationalist crap. Back to the drawing board guys, time to remodel without the – we’re really tougher than the provos tinge of green on the manifesto.

  • Join The Dots

    Apart from Margaret’s leadership campaign, who or what does this benefit?

    Who gets to nominate the SDLP nominee for P&J?

    Who was Alasdair McDonnell a complete twat to during his last year as SDLP leader?

    Who now gets his own back?

    Not exactly rocket science, is it?