Yesterday demonstrated why Sinn Fein and the DUP retain the majority stake in Westminster over the moderate
muddle middle… Yesterday Margaret Ritchie did what no party leader in Britain or the Republic would do before an election and revealed she would not take her party into opposition with the SDLP… Thus taking much of the fun danger promise out of voting SDLP… At the same time, Reg Empey pulled out of his previous minded view that his party would vote for Alban Maguinness (for the sake of fairness and him being best qualified), and his party voted for Danny Kennedy instead… Why? Well, one plausible explanation is that Alban’s the guy who described the evacuation of the north Belfast Torens estate by Protestants as windfall site for additional housing (for, it has been consistently implied by his north Belfast DUP colleagues, Catholics)… Here’s the SDLP’s man’s explanation from Hansard for his original choice of words in March 2006:
the people who left the Torrens estate did so in an organised fashion and to an agreed programme, and were rehoused immediately. The Torrens area was a windfall site in the context of providing additional housing, as it had become a sink estate. There was an opportunity for it to be rehabilitated and rebuilt.
The explanation goes, that backing Maguinness under such a withering local attack was too much water to carry for the Ulster Unionists last remain MLA in the are, the Labour minded Fred Cobain… It ably demonstrates just how strong an influence the communal past (not to mention present) continues to exert locally, and some of the difficulty facing either moderate party in trying to carve out and occupy a middle ground politics when two men – whose instincts would be to take a Labour whip at Westminster – can be so profoundly divided by the politics of their own constituency…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty