Nightmare scenario unfolding for Margaret and Fearghal

The anticipated announcement, that an agreed pan-Unionist candidate would be taking the field in Fermanagh South Tyrone, will have new SDLP leader reaching for the medicine cabinet to pop a couple of headache pills this morning. Expect the pressure for a reciprocal joint nationalist candidate to reach fever pitch and, with Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew the sitting MP, it’ll soon be very clear that nationalists will be looking for the withdrawal of the SDLP’s celebrity candidate, Fearghal McKinney, in order to ensure that the entry of the former UTV candidate does not ensure a split vote which will deliver the seat back into unionist hands for the first time since Gildernew claimed the seat in 2001. This was the topic of a piece I had in the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week when I outlined the unenviable options now facing Ms. Ritchie:

Firstly, the party can proceed with the plan to run McKinney regardless of the clamour for a nationalist pact. Though SDLP insiders may like to convince themselves that doing so would be a bold statement of the party’s intention to avoid being labelled as simply matching unionism’s tribalist dance, in reality such a strategy would likely see the new SDLP candidate deliver a record low vote for the party in the constituency as nationalists at ground level respond in kind to the pan-unionist approach. Worse, in the event of the pan-unionist candidate claiming the seat, McKinney’s reputation in the constituency would be tarnished along with that of his new party. A choice of being either humiliated or scorned- not, I’m sure, how he imagined things would pan out when he finally agreed to consummate his flirtation with the SDLP.
Secondly, the party can opt for a pact which would give McDonnell and Gildernew a clear run in South Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone. Unfortunately for the SDLP, that may salvage the party’s reputation in the rural and nationalist heartlands, but the broader coalition which helped elect McDonnell in South Belfast may be irrevocably shaken by this development and, whilst Gildernew would romp home in her patch, the defeated SDLP leadership candidate would be the underdog to return as MP, leaving the party with the short change.
Not quite Hobson’s choice, but not far from it. Welcome to political leadership, Margaret Ritchie. Decision time is fast approaching.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s not as if Margaret wouldn’t be one to point the finger.

  • Carsons Cat

    Chris,
    Whilst the UUP’s more sensible members appear to finally have locked Owen Patterson in a box or something and over-ruled this nonsense of 18 Tory candidates I don’t see the SDLP pulling out.

    It was clear that the decisions preventing a united unionist candidate in Fermanagh were being dictated by forces outside of the UUP. The SDLP have put forward a candidate by their own free will.

    There’s no doubt the Shinners won’t like the prospect of their first electoral loss at Westminster for a long time but its coming…..

  • RobertEmmett

    i thought sinn fein said the Orange state had been smashed. despite the new era in our new northern ireland, its the old sectarian headcount at the back of it all.

    at a time when 100s of jobs at risk in Fermanagh, the media and political watchers will be tripping over thmeselves as to who gets this one job.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Carson

    You could be right but there’s no doubt that this development changes the pre-election narrative on the nationalist side in a manner which the SDLP will find very difficult to deal with unless it opts for a deal on unity candidates.

    Opposition to such a deal- on the spurious grounds of sectarian headcounts (see Ritchie’s comments this morning already)- will not play well in nationalist communities within and beyond the constituency directly affected.

  • RobertEmmett

    why should the SDLP step aside? its not as if the SF have done any favours for them over the past term. the shinners are happy to have small U unionist run the justice ministry, rather than a nationalist minister as it would have been under d’hondt.

  • Carsons Cat

    Chris,
    In some ways I see where you’re coming from and I wouldn’t particularly want to be Fearghal knocking the doors in parts of Fermanagh or South Tyrone.

    However, there isn’t a snowballs chance of them withdrawing and the more fury there is coming from SF quarters about that fact will only encourage those (few) unionists who maybe weren’t coming out to vote to do exactly that.

    Every concerned/angry SF statement will be just confirmation in the minds of unionists that the seat can be won back.

    A tricky one for the shinners.

  • From the SDLP side of the fence the best decision is no deal as that helps to protect their SB (and SD) seat. If Nationalists so badly want a Nationalist MP in FST then they know who to vote for. Gildernew to go close but lose.

    So Ritchie will surely say NO to any pact or she will damage her own prospects as well.

    Protocol warning: Please adjust your mindset
    For those of a particulalry tribal and/or sensitive disposition and those unable to judge an arguement on it’s merits please be aware that the term Unionist in my name is not an entrirely accurate reflection of my political views though it should also be noted that my paternal grandfather was a keen supporter of the Union and I am invoking the FIFA grandparent rule and am opting to call myself so. (I’m sure he would have approved.)

  • Chris Donnelly

    Carson
    It’s not really tricky for republicans at all as their message will be one met with agreement within their constituency, even by SDLP voters.

    Unionists will know that this development considerably increases the prospects of a unionist MP being elected.

    But nationalists will know that too, hence the dilemma for the SDLP: stand and deliver for pan-Unionism or withdraw and be seen as endorsing pan-nationalism.

    There is no option which delivers a positive outcome for the party’s candidate in the constituency.

  • slug

    The SDLP actually take up their seats at Westminster and take the Labour whip. A vote for them is a vote for an agenda pursued at Westminster. As a Labour-inclined voter, I would not regard SF as the same kind of politics as SF at all. SF don’t even go to Westminster FFS.

  • bigchiefally

    What is the point of a SF representative at Westminster? If all you care about is having a nationalist voice, regardless of who it is, I can see a pact making sense in Stormont elections, but Westminster?

    Despite my many years of living in NI it still doesnt make a great deal of sense to me voting for someone who wont represent you.

    Maybe SF should just pull out and let the SDLP get on with Westminster elections. There would be less unionists elected and nationalists would have a bit more of a voice.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Slug

    Your entitled to those opinions. Remember, however, that it isn’t your vote that is relevant but those of nationalists who are quite comfortable electing nationalist candidates on abstentionist platforms.

    Trying to sell a decision likely to deliver a unionist MP on that basis alone isn’t likely to bear much fruit for the SDLP in FST or elsewhere.

  • aquifer

    It is time for the centre parties to shred the sectarian outliers.

    The SDLP will actually attend westminster and take on the tories.

    I’d be surprised if the voters of FST continue to stare into their own ethnic navels and return a SF candidate.

    Peace has been kind to FST, SF still sound sour, and the SDLP are overdue some payback from the heavy lifting that was needed to stop irish nationalism sinking into a bloody bog.

  • This is not an Assembly election. Whatever Gildernew’s merits, in a hung Parliament situation it’s madness to elect an abstentionist MP. What if the SF absences bring about a Tory majority and huge cuts? How does that help the people of F&ST;?

  • Cynic2

    One week Conor was a well respected Council Chief Executive who worked with all sections of the community. The next week he became an independent candidate who declares himself as committed to working with all sections of the community and above all committed to representing Fermanagh in Westminster – something that hasn’t happened in years.

    So why do the SDLP attack him>? Because he will take the Conservative whip or because he’s a Protestant?

    Time for some leadership MArgae=ret. Dont let SF suck you down into teh sectarain swamp the wy they did Alistair McDonnell.

  • slug

    Chris

    I agree with Jenny

    A vote for the SDLP is a vote against the Conservatives, because SDLP take the Labour whip (although do so independently) and sit on Labour benches.

    A vote for SF instead of SDLP helps Cameron’s Conservatives – he needs fewer seats to form a government for every (abstentionist) SF rep elected.

    Its a powerful argument for any voter that cares about maintaining spending public services, at risk from a Conservative government.

  • Cynic2

    ” Trying to sell a decision likely to deliver a unionist MP on that basis alone isn’t likely to bear much fruit for the SDLP in FST or elsewhere.”

    ….. so are you saying that Catholic / Nationalist voters are irredeemably politically sectarian or just stupid?

  • Cynic2

    Carson

    Doh ….he’s taking the Conservative whip. Do try to keep up and stip reading all that TUV election literature – its not good for you

  • aquifer

    Why should SF’s problem in voting at Westminster become F&STs;?

    In the GFA we are part of the UK until we decide otherwise, so we attend that parliament until then.

  • Cynic2

    In the last Parliament Gildernew has claimed almost £600,000 just in expenses for not attending. All that non travel and non voting is so expensive after all. This amounts to £550 for every single working day. And that’s on top of what she claims from the Assembly and as a Minister in Stormont.

    £550 a day for no representation!!

  • George

    regardless of the clamour for a nationalist pact

    Is there really a clamour? I haven’t seen or heard much about a nationalist pact and really don’t see the need for one.

    There is no reason for the SDLP not to run a candidate and no reason for SF to demand they don’t run one.

    The world won’t stop revolving for SF if Gildernew loses her seat and if she somehow holds on to it, they get an unexpected boost.

    The SDLP has to run and can even wheel out an Alliance style “we were squeezed out by the sectarian blocks” argument if McKinney crashes and burns.

    Of course, a few punters on the ground might feel annoyed but a pan-unionist pact should hardly come as a surprise to them.

    It has happened before and could well happen again.

    The last time unionism felt the need for pacts was the Anglo-Irish Agreement and look how that one worked out.

    Nationalism should just sit back and enjoy the show. There are plenty of other things to worry about.

  • LabourNIman

    More bile spewing from the orific’s of ritchie, she truely is taking the sdlp down a very dark and dangerous road. But then she’s mates with hardcore reg so her latest secterian statement is of no suprise..

  • Chris Donnelly

    ….. so are you saying that Catholic / Nationalist voters are irredeemably politically sectarian or just stupid?

    Cynic2
    Be aware that when you resort to this argument, it must equally apply to protestant/ unionist voters.

  • Chris,

    I agree with most of the above posts that this developement is more problematic for SF than for the SDLP because it will probably result in the loss of FST.

    However it is I suppose possible that Ruane may benefit (I think she must be closer than many seem to think) if SF run with the SDLP are letting the Tories get FST and it could also be that the SDLP lose SD, hold SB and SF lose FST.

  • The only way unionists agreed was go outside the Party box: both main parties standing down. No way SF would do that, and I doubt if the SDLP would either. Maybe Feargal should have waited….

  • dwatch

    [i]So Ritchie will surely say NO to any pact or she will damage her own prospects as well.[/i]

    Furthermore Ritchie would not be crying any tears if SF lose a seat in FST as long as McDonnell wins the South Belfast seat.

  • JR

    I agree with George. The sdlp cannot and should not pull out. If they pull out we risk going down the undemocratic road of one issue, two party politics in all the constituencies with less than a 1/3 to 2/3 margin.

    The nationalists in fst know they are in the majority and to be saddled with a unionist mp by an undemocratic pact will only serve to increase their frustration with the sectarian state of Northern Ireland. It is a great way to alienate 26,000 people.

    Except for the bragging rights I don’t see how it will effect the daily lives of most of the people of Fst though.

  • Drumlins Rock

    The SDLP have to stand in F&ST; or else close up shop and move out, more or less like they have done next door in West Tyrone, they have never rocovered from backing Sands & Co. back in the 80s, and dont seem interested in tapping into what is probably a pretty strong voter base. For example if they were to get their act together in West Tyrone and put up a good candidate alot of unionist would prob back them, like in South Down, but if Richie insists on playing the Sectarian Card like she has today them she will alienate many of those voters.

  • Cynic2

    Chris

    I agree completely. The point is that the ‘sectarian’ label is being bandied about all over this issue and on slugger. When you unpick the arguments its not down to politics at all but religion and there are multiple posts on this and other topics where contributors form a nationalist perspective are avidly banging away against this announcement because, fundamentally, the candidate is a Prod.

    Never mind what he believes, who he is, what he wants to do for people in the constituency. He’s a prod and the unionists like him so we are ‘agin him.

    Now the Prods are just as capable of this in reverse and I am sure that many FST prods are for him just because he’s a Prod (or not a Catholic) no matter what his politics are.

    It’s depressing to see voters who cant rise above this. I expect it of SF and the Developers’ Unionist Party as it defines they very existences.

    But its truly dispiriting to see Margaret Ritchie on her first real run out / test, get it so wrong, so quickly. She’s just showing herself up as a narrow sectarian politician with no vision. Her remarks on FST are risible – don’t vote for the protestant but vote for the SDLP / catholic candidate because he’s the real non sectarian one. In effect she’s arguing that we have a protestant non-sectarian candidate and a catholic non- sectarian candidate !!!!!!

  • Dunumian

    I think now there will be a Pan Unionist Candidate in South Belfast following the announcement in Fermanagh South Tyrone – this will put an impetus into DUP / Official Unionists to bang heads and bury their differences and putting an end to SDLP representation in Westminster

  • Rory Carr

    Let’s look at what nationalists face here:

    1. The SDLP cannot possibly win in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

    2. FST has a natural nationalist majority.

    3. If the SDLP do not withdraw their candidate then the almost inevitable result is that this nationalist majority will find themselves represented by a unionist representative and moreover, a unionist unity candidate selected precisely for the purpose of denying nationalists the representative that their majority ought to command.

    4. The only possibility for the success of a nationalist candidate, if the SDLP insist on running, then is if that candidate were to be humiliatingly rejected by the nationalist majority.

    For the SDLP to allow a unionist candidate to triumph (and, boy, if they do will we see some united unionist triumphalism then!) would reopen old memories of gerrymandering where, as in Derry, a natural nationalist majority was perpetually dominated by a unionist minority.

    Not, I think, an association that would please the SDLP.

    On the other hand, given that they are the living heirs of the old cap-doffing Nationalist Party who were happy to accomodate a gerrymandered sectarian state for almost half a century, perhaps we should not be at all surprised.

  • LabourNIman

    I just cannoy grasp how two parties standing aside in favour of a decent independant can be called sectarian. Is it because he has the backing of the unionist parties or is it because the electoral math simply doesn’t work in favour of the shinners? Its democracy people, the think you all hate – we allow party goals drive our politics into the ground and only decide to complain when it won’t work in one sides favour. People done have to vote for him, there will be a number of candidates standing. The real issue is that some folk just can handle the fact that it is a move that will unite thousands of voters instead of deepening the divide.

  • LabourNIman

    Apologies for the poor spelling above, I’m in blackberry hell

  • Rory Carr

    It may “unite thosands of voters”, Labourman, but only in the Unionist camp and the effect will indeed be a “deepening of the divide” as Nationalists can only but view this pact as a rebranding of the old “Anyone but a Taig” mentality of old.

  • Mick Fealty

    Note that McKinney is giving a presser at 12 noon. The word I am getting (though not from the candidate himself) is that they are sticking in the fight.

    Rory,

    Michelle is a good minister, no doubt. But why should SF losing a seat she doesn’t actually take worry them? And why should they forgo running out their new machine in FST before next year for folding in favour of what would widely be read as a sectarian head count?

    It’s like the old rugby line, if you go into the tackle hard you hurt your opponent. But if you go in weakly, it is you that gets crunched. That’s the key to them getting through Chris’s nightmare scenario. In that respect they need to learn from the UUs atrociously poor handling of the Tory deal.

    That said, at this point I have no idea what McKinney will say at 12 noon…

  • NMCNSA

    Ritchie is too much in love with her own image to even consider working with the Shinners!
    Even Presidents should bow down to the mighty Margaret II of South Down!
    Can’t abide the woman

  • Wabbits

    This is a defining moment across the North for the SDLP. Sinn fein do not have a God given right to any seat any more than anyone else does.

    The SDLP would be making a huge mistake if they stand aside. Let every man stand on his own two feet and let the voters decide. The SDLP cannot stand aside for a non sitting Member of Parliament. It would e a denial of democracy and counter to everything that the SDLP stands for.

    Nobody likes a coward and there is no running away from this fight. The people of F&ST; aren’t stupid and if Sinn Fein cant win without a leg up from the SDLP then they aren’t the huge success that they are always boasting about.

    The SDLP will not be standing aside for anybody !

  • LabourNIman

    Wabbits – can anyone really say what the sdlp stands for anymore? At the moment they seem content on cementing ritchie as possibly the biggest disappointment in their history. What happened to the new politics? All we have had is their leader complain to obama, con her party into selecting her as a westminster candidate oh and ofcourse she also throws secterianism around like its going out of fashion (which it is)

  • ardmaj55

    Chris Donnelly [22] Inevitably, we’re hearing the old chestnut that if the nats voters in F/ST TY decide to vote tactically to counter the stitch up by UUP/DUP, that makes them equally sectarian as on the other side.
    But it’s not as simple as that, since it’s really the parties initiating the sectarian carve up who are guilty of playing that card. If the nats parties had been the first to take this step of standing aside, they would then, for me, be guilty of that. In this case, the nats voters, in the absence of an officially sanctioned pact wouldonly be reacting to this stitch up.

  • Chris keeps repeating this line that there is a problem for the SDLP in FST. The reality is, the SDLP don’t owe Sinn Féin anything. The SDLP’s brand of politics is different from Sinn Féin and if I was a voter in that constituency I would be frankly insulted if the SDLP pulled out and expected its voters to vote for an abstentionist MP. Aside from Tom Kelly, to who whom everyone has learned to ignore anyway, there is no clamour for any pacts with the Shinners in the SDLP. In fact, quite the opposite.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    LabourNIman

    “I just cannoy grasp how two parties standing aside in favour of a decent independant can be called sectarian.”

    You make it sound as though Rodney Connor was some gigantic figure whom all the people of FST would be proud to cast their votes, and their traditional allegiances aside, for. But whatever else Mr Connor is, he’s not that. How many people had even heard of him a fortnight ago?

    In truth, the unionist parties agreed in principle on a deal, and worked backwards from there on identifying a joint candidate. That’s very far from “standing aside in favour of a decent independent”.

    Now, I know precious little about Mr Connor, but I don’t doubt he’s a reasonably capable fellow. However, it’s stretching credibility to suggest that the reason the DUP and UCUNF have decided to stand aside is because of the exceptional abilities of Mr Connor. It’s rather easier to swallow the suggestion that they’re standing aside because he’s a unionist. And it’s self-evidently the case that this is a demonstration of the principle that any unionist is better than any nationalist.

    Which is, of course, par for the course in an inherently sectarian political culture such as we have in NI. (I suspect nationalist voters in FST will rally to Gildernew, based on exactly the same principle in reverse.) But please spare me the blushing denials and the protestations that you are shocked, shocked! at the suggestion that this is a sectarian pact.

    Of course it’s a sectarian pact.

    “The real issue is that some folk just can handle the fact that it is a move that will unite thousands of voters instead of deepening the divide.”

    This is a ridiculous statement. Quite obviously, it will unite people on one side of the divide, and will deepen the divide between the two communities. It may lead to Mr Connor winning the seat, and that’d be a good result for unionism, but please spare us the hogwash about “uniting” people. This will be the most divisive election in FST since 1981 – precisely because of this deal between the DUP and the “post-sectarian” UCUNF.

    (Mick Fealty must feel like quite the fool this morning.)

  • Greenflag

    Ritchie has been ‘hoodwinked ‘ by the UCUNF/DUP combo . McKinney should stand down and not present the ‘unionist’ coalition of convenience with a ‘unionist’ seat . He can salvage a future political career elsewhere in NI .

    McKinney now runs the serious risk of a political humiliation and that would bode no good for Margaret Ritchie’s future leadership of the SDLP .

    The SDLP seem not to have noticed that the entire UCUNF show of ‘reaching out ‘ to the other half of the population as part of the new Tory Alliance has been a shambles from start to finish .

    But not enough of a shambles obviously to prevent a ‘unionist’ get together for the sake of Westminster representation . Those who would accuse the SDLP of ‘sectarianism’ by not standing in FST are the same people who would NOT accuse either the UCUNF or DUP of sectarianism by putting forward a ‘unionist ‘ joint candidate . The hypocrisy stinks .

    While nobody can blame Unionists for trying to regain representation for the constituency at Westminster it won’t help any of the FST tribes to have another Tory in the HOC .

    Like it or not NI is about sectarianism -always was and always will be . Until such time as that State no longer exists in it’s present format ‘sectarian ‘ politicis are built in to the system even more so now . Yes there are some in the AP and in other parties who like to think they are ‘above’ those sort of considerations but make no mistake about it when the results are declared on May 7th it will be the same old pattern with a few minor ‘aberrrations’ due to ‘strategic voting’.

    It can’t be otherwise as UCUNF have so incompetently demonstrated these past few weeks .

    Time for the SDLP to summon up their ‘green’ and tell ‘unionism ‘ that they won’t allow themselves to be hoodwinked and that if that means by withdrawing from FST they lose South Belfast well thats a price worth paying .

    The fact that I believe SF should take their seats at Westminster is neither here nor there .

  • Newman

    Watch out for tactical voting in SD….real desire among many grammar school enthusiasts to give Catriona a bloody nose. Margaret needs to hold her nerve..keep the SDLP in FST and pull in a decent haul of soft unionists in both South Belfast and South Down. It took the SDLP decades to recover fropm the withdrawal of their candidiate in 1981 ..surely they will not make the same mistake twice.

  • Driftwood

    Rory Carr
    “Anyone but a Taig”
    ????

    How do you know what religion the Tory candidate is?

    I’ve no idea what religion Mike Nesbitt is. Why would it be relevant?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Connor is a rather Irish sounding surname.

  • Henry94

    Driftwood

    The candidate could be a Hindu and the objective would be the same. To steal the Bobby Sands seat for the Tories. Nationalists will have to fight that plan every inch of the way. Then we’ll all have to accept the result in the end. It’s going to be a hard hard contest.

  • RobertEmmett

    it would appear that for SF, losing FST for nationalism, is now more important than handing the justice ministry away for nationalism.

  • Michaelhenry

    do the s.d.l.p still take the labour whip at westminister, strange for a party like the s.d.l.p who tell us that they suppurt peace then take the whip from a party that sent soldiers into an illegal war.

  • Lionel Hutz

    They receive the whip, they don’t just follow it though.

  • Michaelhenry

    they have the whip of war suppurters, which in my book makes the s.d.l.p a war suppurting party. we have to pity them.

  • RobertEmmett

    support

    suppOrt.

  • [i]they have the whip of war suppurters, which in my book makes the s.d.l.p a war suppurting party. we have to pity them.[/i]

    The SDLP were the only NI party to vote against the war in Iraq. If Sinn Féin cared enough they would have been there too.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Michaelhenry,

    you should really think about what you say. Just try it. and for the record, SDLP voted against 40 day detention and other potentially inhumane treatment. Where were Sinn Fein? WHat is Gildernew’s record that she has talking about

  • LabourNIman

    Billy Pilgrim – explain to me again why this is a sectarian pact and why it even matters?

    If SF have done such a good job of representing FST then all the voters will flock to save their MP from the dirty prods who have agreed to back a candidate that has never been in a unionist party..

    As for it being a nationalist constituency.. that term alone is sectarian. If and ONLY if 100% of the residents are nationalist can it be called a nationalist supporting constituency.

    Get the facts right…

  • Michaelhenry

    they support these wars whilst sinn fein support peace, if the s.d.l.p was against the war they would leave the goverments whip, sinn fein does care to be irish thats why they do not vote at westminister.

  • Rory Carr

    Driftwood,

    The point is that we both know what religion both Rodney Connor and Mike Nesbit do not belong to, don’t we? Because if there were the slightest taint of catholicism about them (like a catholic great-great granny somewhere) then we can be sure that UCUNF would have been singing it from the rooftops, while the DUP party to FST Unionist Unity would have been desperately attempting to suppress any news of such a taint.

    In any case the epithet “Taig” in its broader sense signifies a a nationalist or republican, not merely a catholic, but any flavour that hints at one of “themmuns”.

  • LabourNIman

    Michaelhenry – what? the whole point of standing for an election is to take your seat and vote on behalf of ALL your constituents.

    SF don’t grasp this and insult everyone in NI with their long running joke of actually contesting and then running a mile from their responsibilities.

    But you don’t care about that, as you only want SF to speak for the people that will vote for them.

  • Michaelhenry

    the whole point if you get elected is to work for all your constituents labourniman, not just to be there once a week to vote on there behaif, why do yoy think that the s.d.l.p is behind sinn fein.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    First and foremost unionism has yet again played its Orange card, if the SDLP dont pull out then they are finished, its as simple as that, the nationalist voters showed what it thought of there refusal to pull out of West Tyrone years ago by destroying the party. If FST is lost to Unionism the death bell will ring for the SDLP.

    And the provos would love to take there seats in Westminister, they just need an excuse to explain swearing the oath to the foreign monarch. And the hung parliament may just be that excuse, the brave republicans can march to the rescue and prevent the new thatcher’s from taking power.

  • Michaelhenry

    id love to hear that excuse an phoplacht abu, id like to hear who you support or to you never tire of being a loner.

  • Seandoc

    This really is the nightmare scenario for the SDLP and may cost them seats at the next assembly election if not at Westminister.

    There is absolutely no prospect of a pact between the SDLP and Sinn Fein. The level of enmity between members and representatives of the two organisations is incredible and probably something that most people are not fully aware of.

    Expect Sinn Fein in the coming days to offer to withdraw Maskey in SB for a reciprocal gesture by the SDLP in FST in the full knowledge that such an offer will never be accepted by the SDLP.

    I would guess that over half of SDLP supporters would rather see Gildernew elected than an agreed Unionst candidate (lets call him what he is please), there is also a substantial number of voters who would see themselves as somewhere between the parties in terms of who they support. A large number of these voters will be disappointed by SDLP’s reluctance to withdraw in fst and are likely to vote SF as a result not only in FST but across the North and as seen in WT and other places most of these voters are unlikely to return to the SDLP.

    If nothing else this situation highlights the need for an alternate vote system for Westminister elections. If that change is not made then it is very likely that the SDLP will only be left with one MP if not at this election then the next.

  • Henry94

    An Phoblacht Abu

    And the hung parliament may just be that excuse, the brave republicans can march to the rescue and prevent the new thatcher’s from taking power.

    I don’t see it. I have been a supporter of all the steps SF have made but I don’t see any reason to sit in the British Parliament least of all to decide who should lead the British Government. That should be a matter for the British themselves.

    I would like to see Sinn Fein’s MPs attending the Dail which is where their voters would want them to go.

  • John East Belfast

    Henry94

    “I would like to see Sinn Fein’s MPs attending the Dail which is where their voters would want them to go”

    To do what exactly ?

    As for who wants them there one thing is for certain it is not the majority of the FST electorate and I would gamble not anyone in the Dail

  • slug

    I get the very strong impression that most of the voters of Ireland (South) would not want NI SF MPs influencing their government program from the Dail.

  • Davros

    I’ve been having silly thoughts around this, the fun to be had if SF could swing the hung parliament what they could do. On one hand swearing to the Queen is a big no no, on the other hand they could probably secure the building of skyscrapers and monorails in West Belfast. The best fudge I could think of was all their MPs declining the SF whip and swearing in as independents in a nudge nudge wink wink fashion but it would have to be some shocking, outrageous pork barrel to warrant it.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    They could easily sell the oath to the party faithful if they claimed they were stopping Thatchers party getting into government, hell even i would support that and i thought Sinn Fein went too far with the police!

  • Michaelhenry

    you all seen it here first, an phoblacht abu supports the oath to the crown, sinn fein opposes this oath, this is why an phoblacht abu is agaist them.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    ah Michaelhenry the disciple of St Gerry of Ballymurphy, i dont support the oath to the foreign monarch and believe its outdated and pointless even for the british people, i simply believe that as the Provisionals have sold out every other principle they hold (remember the old days when they were republicans? ) it would be a very small step to take a seat in Westminister (you already claim your expenses and offices there after all) to prevent a Thatcherite government.

    Would you like to see another Thatcher in power if you could stop it? beating in mind Michael you support the Colonial Police and the Puppet parliament of your british masters?

  • Henry94

    Davros

    That would be an interesting idea but couldn’t work. It’s more than a party policy. It’s a republican principle and you could not get around it by formally leaving the party.

    Anyway it’s unlikely to arise. Gordon Brown will still be Prime Minister after the election. The Tories will blow it. The FST decision shows they lack the right stuff.

  • Davros

    Politics aside, it would also be very, very funny. And what better way to get rid of the oath than by taking it then voting for a bill to immediately get rid of it.

  • Davros

    And the no catholic head of state thing too.

  • slug

    ONeill – a CU blogger and regular on slugger – is not happy: link

  • Henry94

    Davros

    I think the Head of State coming from one family is even worse than coming from one religion. Sinn Fein would be no more willing to swear loyalty to a Catholic monarch I’m sure.

  • Michaelhenry

    an phoblacht abu has went back to pretenting to be hardline, everything is now all right in the world.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    Michaelhenry still pretending to be republican? If its hardline to believe that a republican party should stick to all its principles or none at all then maybe i am. Provisional Sinn Fein have broken every pledge they have ever made so why not that one?? Why take offices and expenses but not take a seat? Sinn Fein dont have principles or morals so it couldnt be that

  • Alias

    The Shinners didn’t call for an agreed Catholic candidate but for the other Catholic candidate to stand aside.

    If one candidate is to stand aside from the Catholic tribe, then let it be the Shinner candidate.

    Clearly, the Shinners have taken an oath of loyalty to Her Majesty’s pay cheques, and they intend to hang on to her well paid jobs by any self-serving tactic.

  • Michaelhenry

    you said you would do it an phoblacht abu, look at the facts.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    LabourNIman

    “explain to me again why this is a sectarian pact and why it even matters?”

    Oh, just read my post again.

    I’ll take your acceptance that it “doesn’t matter” as your concession that, of course, it’s a sectarian pact. (In lieu of a rebuttal.)

    “If SF have done such a good job of representing FST then all the voters will flock to save their MP from the dirty prods who have agreed to back a candidate that has never been in a unionist party..”

    I hold no brief for SF, for their MP nor for their abstentionist policy. None of this has anything to do with whether this blatantly sectarian pact is, in fact, a sectarian pact.

    “As for it being a nationalist constituency.. that term alone is sectarian. If and ONLY if 100% of the residents are nationalist can it be called a nationalist supporting constituency. Get the facts right…”

    Where did I say anything like that? Please point out where I used that phrase.

    You can’t, of course. You resort to misrepresentation, in the absence of any cogent argument. You take it upon yourself to counter an argument I have not actually made (since you have no rebuttal for the argument I actually HAVE made).

    And why is a so-called Labour man carrying a brief with such passion for a Tory? Don’t you realise that every vote for Rodney Connor is a vote against Labour?

  • Michaelhenry

    the labour party has got an abstentionist policy about standing canadides in the six counties.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Michaelhenry

    Either way, here we have a so-called “NILabourman” exulting in the likely election of an extra Tory to Westminster.

    Now why might that be?

  • LabourNIman

    ‘the labour party has got an abstentionist policy about standing canadides in the six counties.’ – so did the shinners for quite a long time, then it was the bomb and ballot box, now it’s just the ballot box.

    Labour policy has changed and at least when the labour party puts candidates up next year they’ll be doing so for everyone in a constituency not encouraging a sectarian head count. But I guess the thought of a heavy weight, non-secterian party sends chills up your spine.

    ‘the whole point if you get elected is to work for all your constituents labourniman, not just to be there once a week to vote on there behaif, why do yoy think that the s.d.l.p is behind sinn fein.’ Oh so SF works for everyone in the constituency, wether uinionist/nationalist/other? pure nonsense.

    well, westminster sits more than once a week.. I’m no fan of the sdlp, but I’m guessing they are behind due quite a range of issues.

    Billy Pilgrim – will you get my name right?

    I don’t want another Tory in westminster how ever, should it happen, I’ll take comfort in the fact that NI will have a MP that is involved in mainstream politics which, regardless of which bench they sit on.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Labour policy has changed and at least when the labour party puts candidates up next year they’ll be doing so for everyone in a constituency not encouraging a sectarian head count. But I guess the thought of a heavy weight, non-secterian party sends chills up your spine.

    Yes, that’s what the UCUNF apologists here used to say. They used to say the rest of us were running scared. Since then, after announcing a series of joke candidates including a professional Freddie Mercury impersonator and a news announcer who thinks everyone should send their kids to Campbell College, their organization has basically fallen completely apart and, in time honoured fashion, they’ve retreated to the comfortable surrounds of tribal politics because they think it is the only way they can win. Please, don’t make a total joke out of yourself by pretending that politicians here have anything to fear by any imported party standing candidates here.

    I don’t want another Tory in westminster how ever, should it happen, I’ll take comfort in the fact that NI will have a MP that is involved in mainstream politics which, regardless of which bench they sit on.

    It’s not “mainstream politics”. This is a unionist unity candidate. If you’re throwing your weight in behind that, fine, but please don’t try to pretend that this is anything other than a squalid sectarian unionist pact. You can’t call it “mainstream”, this kind of squalid pact wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the UK. Do you see any of the major three parties getting together to keep the SNP or PC out ? No you don’t.

  • Michaelhenry

    its just the ballot box because sinn fein are just interested in peace labourniman, but it helps us irish to know that the armed british army are of our streets.

  • LabourNIman

    Comrade Stalin – it’s been a while since I’ve had one of your rants targeted at me, so here we go..

    ‘Please, don’t make a total joke out of yourself by pretending that politicians here have anything to fear by any imported party standing candidates here.’ – imported party? The party that has NI union heads on it’s executive body along with the rest of the UK? The same NI union members that donate money to the labour party every month? The party that will has formed the UK government for the last 13 years? the working class people in NI have more of a say in the Labour party than they do in the party you are a member of.

    Are you saying my party is sectarian? If so, what side are we – nationalist or unionist (and before making a joke of yourself I would check my parties history on the NI question).

    I’m not saying it won’t be a fight, which is why we are starting at the council elections and not jumping into a national campaign.

    The venom your spewing says more about the attitude of your party and the fact that, for quite a long time, it’s been the only part thats called it’self non-sectarian. Things change.

    Michaelhenry – thanks for sharing your views.

  • Harry J

    Very interesting the response to Rodney Connor from both the DUP and UUP

    The UUP website has nothing on this while the DUP are crowing.

    Very clear that the UUP have been bounced into this by the DUP and ROdney Connor is no CUNF

  • CatinHat

    @Billy Pilgrim

    “It’s rather easier to swallow the suggestion that they’re standing aside because he’s a unionist. And it’s self-evidently the case that this is a demonstration of the principle that any unionist is better than any nationalist.

    Which is, of course, par for the course in an inherently sectarian political culture such as we have in NI.”

    —-

    But that’s not actually sectarian, if you want to be precise about it.

  • CatinHat

    To which I mean that the alleged point of UCUNF was “non sectarian unionism” not non sectarianism that has no opinion on the union.

  • ardmaj55

    MU [23] Even if Connor wins this FST seat from Gildernew, this time, It can still be got back by SF next time, since the same unionist arrangement is not likely to apply beyond this election. I suspect McKinney is already regretting standing as are the SDLP, but they can’t be seen to withdraw now and make things look worse for them. Not a good start for Ritchie, at all. McDonnell should have been elected leader, although, I’m not sure either would have changed SDLP fortunes much.

  • ardmaj55,

    Westminster seats are a sideshow and are of little value to SF other than for political pride (though they may not admit it) – the important thing is the % of Nationalist vote and the % of the overall vote as that will reflect in Assembly seats and in the actual exercising of power.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Catinhat

    “To which I mean that the alleged point of UCUNF was “non sectarian unionism” not non sectarianism that has no opinion on the union.”

    I’m not sure what “non-sectarian unionism” would look like, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t involve putting up joint candidates with the DUP.

    I dunno, but wouldn’t you think “non-sectarian unionism” would involve some sort of confrontation with, let’s just call it, sectarian unionism? As opposed to jumping into bed with sectarian unionism at the first opportunity?

    Do any of the UCUNF apologists here even have any idea what being non-sectarian might actually involve DOING, beyond SAYING they’re agin it, and getting all affronted when anyone points out that their ACTIONS suggest otherwise?

  • Coll Ciotach

    The SDLP are between a rock and a hard place on this. They know that if they do not come to a deal with SF, stepping down in Fermanagh and SF stepping down in SB they will have a negative backlash across the occupied territory.
    But the problem is Richie. She has alienated many unionists with her remarks on the Orange Order. These people are needed. Their tactical votes would have ensured that she would see off SF. However whatever little chance of that happening would be sunk if there was a deal. She has lost a chunk of voters over the way Terry Andrews was treated and I believe, correct me here if I am wrong, she has lost votes in the boundary changes to Strangford. Anyway – she has shot in the nest. She knows that to do a deal would finish herself, so she is more than willing to lose SB and the troublesome presence of Al.

    Can you imagine the tension in the party? Going to be great to watch the SDLP tear itself apart. SF may lose Fermanagh but they will gain the North as far as nationalism is concerned – and let us face it – that is a far better prize. Richie is perhaps a tactician but she is no strategist.