‘Merger with Fianna Fail – Not on my watch’

Politics.ie has Margaret Ritchie’s speech to the Labour party conference in Galway. She rules out any link with Fianna Fail and gets very cosy with Labour.

(full text below the fold)

Ladies and Gentlemen – Friends

I’m Margaret Ritchie – recently elected leader of the SDLP

I’m delighted to be here.

Many of you won’t know me, but suffice to say that, up home, I have something of a reputation for being direct and to the point – and, so I like to think, a reputation for hard work.

I intend to turn around the fortunes of the SDLP – by showing people we have a unique vision where we are

– Stronger on Jobs and the Economy
– Serious on building a Shared Society
– Credible in our approach to Irish Unity

Our opponents cannot deliver in these key areas

There has been talk of us joining with Fianna Fail and there are some in the SDLP who like such a proposition. But let me make our position clear.

Merger with Fianna Fail? – not on my watch.

Our policy is to maintain good relations with all Parties in the South and, truthfully, I have great regard for Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny as well as, of course, for Eamon.

Now it is normally our practice not to comment on policy issues in the South. But I think the theme of your conference affords me some latitude

So let me give it to you straight:
We are in an economic crisis, North and South, of unprecedented proportions – created for the most part by people who were rich, greedy and reckless.

I believe we have a moral duty to make those people shoulder the burden of correction and not the people who are already struggling to get by – including junior public sector employees and the working poor.

I am not impressed with NAMA – it is simply a Rehab centre for banks. Nor do I think it was the right decision not to close, at the very least, Anglo Irish Bank. This institution is now a byword for toxicity, and its impact is not just numbers on balance sheets or deserted housing developments. Right now it could well cost thousands of peoples’ jobs in the border counties. It should not have been rescued.

The SDLP shares a special bond with Irish Labour.

We are both Parties of principle who will always put people and country before self interest.

We both want to see jobs at the top of the agenda in these difficult economic times. And we are both dismayed by those impostors who after decades of pointless violence would claim the historic legacy of James Connolly and the life’s work of John Hume.

And we both have a proud record of delivery for our people:

The historians have yet to write up the massive contribution Mervyn Taylor and his Labour colleagues made to modernising this country and making it fairer for all its citizens. And in all the praise about the Peace Process, the SDLP will not forget the absolutely vital and central role of Dick Spring.

We forget our friends and there is one person in this room I particularly want to thank for his never-faltering support over many years.

On behalf of the SDLP and from the heart. Thank you Ruairi Quinn.

And thank you too Eamon Gilmore. As a new kid on the block I have watched your leadership with great admiration. You have led your Party with authority and purpose.

With you as leader the election, when it comes, will be a great day for Labour.

And on that night I will be watching a TV, in Downpatrick, looking out for one particular result.

The name Spring, restored to its rightful place, heading the poll in Kerry North.

Thank you

  • slug

    It is perhaps a return to SDLP core values – social democratic ones.

    If so then I would welcome this and encourage the Labour brand to be used more in NI as a move away from tribal politics.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    In fairness Ms Ritchie should take a long hard look at the Labour Party 2010 and their leaderships connexions to Gardiner Street Sinn Féin, The Workers Party and Democratic Left.

    Of course as we all know there was no such thing as the Official IRA. No sirree bob. And several Trot type journos at Montrose can testify to that.

  • dwatch

    Very interesting slug, after Ritchie’s rejection of Gerry Adams letter requesting a rep/nat unity pact over FST & SB one wonders has the SDLP leader more in common with lady Hermon and her socialist labour sympathies.

  • Alias

    “Right now it could well cost thousands of peoples’ jobs in the border counties.”

    Is her only concern for locals? It’s a bit thick to go make that comment in Galway, and tell tham that she doesn’t care what impact Anglo would have on their jobs because they’re outside of her parish.

  • Michaelhenry

    has margart ritchie lost the plot, she hopes dick spring will top the poll in kerry north, an irish election which the s.d.l.p are to yellow to take part in, there is not one person in 26 of irelands 32 counties who support the s.d.l.p, not one.

  • paul kielty

    Hhhmmm…Wasn’t James Connelly the leader of the Irish Citizens Army, founder of radical trade unions, and a man committed to the ousting of the ruling classes, both british and Irish, through the unashamed use of armed struggle!

    Ms Ritchie is playing games with the political establishment in the south, whom are in total denial of their past. Who in fact react angerly at being reminded of it.

    She is in good company!!!!!

    I hope the BBC do something decent, and remind her of this speech in the run up to may the 6th!

  • granni trixie

    Could it be that this speech is intended to signal to FF SDLP’s disenchantment, perceiving that FF has not supported them well during recent troubled times?

  • Wan

    @ michael Henry
    The SDLP are a sister party of Labour, they speak at each others conferences (I think Ruarí Quinn spoke at the SDLP conference) and they are part of the same grouping in the European Parliament. When the SDLP were founded Labour members were instructed to join it. It’s the reason that Labour don’t run candidates in the North.

  • paul kielty

    All the establishment parties in the south were given grandstand seats at the last’conference’. FF, FG, and Labour were all there on the telly!!

    This is more to do with desperation. The stoops have decided that FG/Labour will win the next GE, and in true stoop style they have acted accordinally.

    Dermot Ahern will be very displeased!

  • Michaelhenry

    so you agree wan that not 1 person in the 26 counties would lower themselves to support the s.d.l.p, like there is not one person in 6 of irelands counties who would support labour, unless you wan have got different facts than everone else.

  • Michaelhenry

    everyone else.

  • paul kielty

    So after shafting her in-house political opponent in SB, she reaches out to the stickie criminal class in the north. Proof, if needed, of the SDLP’s unsuitability to hold the P&J portfolio.

    The chance of the BBC investigating these dubious links?

    Unlikely.

  • Coll Ciotach

    There were many misguided individuals in FF who thought the the SDLP were a party of principle. They are not. They are political equivalent of ladies of negotiable virtue who are wiling to open their legs to any party in the south if they think their is a political payment to be obtained. Now they think that Labour will be king makers. But a warning to them, once you have been around a few and the looks and figures fade the clientelle start becoming more and more downmarket.

    You have made a bad call.

  • Comrade Stalin

    has margart ritchie lost the plot, she hopes dick spring will top the poll in kerry north, an irish election which the s.d.l.p are to yellow to take part in,

    Michael, in fairness I have to agree with you. It takes a lot of courage for Sinn Fein to run elections where it keeps on losing.

  • Ulick

    Good (principled) move by Ritchie but it’ll do nothing for her up here except piss people off within her own Party.

  • paul kielty

    What is the labour party in Ireland’s view on middle class privilege in education?

    Do the southern labour party support the retention of class privilege in the north?

    Will Eamon Gilmore state his views on the northern education system?

    Will someone in the inherantly unionist BBC, confront the SDLP, on this issue?

    Don’t hold your breath with state controlled television!

  • Michaelhenry

    comrade stalin thinks sinn fein lose in kerry, its time to open those big communist eyes pal, sinn fein is the only party that wins all ireland.

  • Michaelhenry, as a commentator on southern politics, surely you must know that it is Arthur Spring and not Dick Spring who is the Labour candidate in Kerry North. Dick Spring has not been an elected representative for some eight years. Are you by any chance a secret partionist, who has no real interest in events on the other side of the border ?

  • I have to say the SDLP, considering their links to Labour are a bit of a disappointment. No politician should make a speech without considering its implications to a wider audience.

  • Michaelhenry

    no old hack just talking history in what springs to mind, i hope old hack that you are not for labour, a party to yellow to stand for elections in the six counties of ireland.

  • Dunumian

    Ritchie was glad of FIANNA FAIL in Washington on St Patricks Day when An Taoiseach Brian Cowan added her to the Irish Government delegation to meet President Obama –
    The State Department werent interested in Ritchie
    and the SDLP
    and she was like a spoiled brat she let herself down and cried wolf –
    Remember its manners to be asked

  • Dunumian

    Ritchie doesnt live in Downpatrick but in the outskirts of Annacloy part of her former Council area of Rowallane
    Just shows you she is only too happy to forget her roots and the people of Rowallane who gave her 600 odd 1st preferences back in 85
    She thinks she is in the big picture but there is a good day coming
    May 6th I hope

  • Wan

    @ Michael Henry
    I don’t think you get the concept of the “sister party”. It means that the two parties are similar enough to each other for them to consider each other partners and not rivals. They therefore don’t compete with each other as voters would find the two interchangeable. So north and south of the border there is a suitable candidate for a Labour voter, merely under different titles. They, between them, compete for all seats in the 32 counties.

  • Michaelhenry

    two partys wan to yellow to be irish, thank god for the all ireland sinn fein.

  • Alias

    Wan, it’s a pity that the PDs disbanded then since they were the Alliance Party’s “sister party” in Ireland – which, by your logic, made the Alliance Party an all-Ireland party.

  • Henry94

    The FF link was only ever intended to give the SDLP a bit of 32 county cred. To rule it out in the way she did was needlessly blunt considering it was always FF doing the SDLP the favour by pretending it might happen.

    Margaret Ritchie has made a mistake here and will not now be trusted by the other southern parties. It’s disappointing and will cost the SDLP a lot more than it will cost Fianna Fail. She will be seen as having given them a kick when they were down. She better hope they stay down.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Now that Sinn Féin have given up the violent one trick pony there has to be an sensible alignment of nationalist/republican political parties.

    We have two parties pretty much occupying the same political ground on the left/right spectrum.

    Realistically and sensibly there is space for a left wing and a centerist political parties.

    Sinn Fein are a coalition of one political issue and I suppose the SDLP are pretty much that too.

    Really if a super large game of political musical chairs could be arranged and the chairs were arranged in a left wing group and a centerist group then a musical interlude that would allow our politicians to take their correct position would be of great advantage.

    Do the Republican/Nationalist parties know where they are on the left/right spectrum and more importantly do they actually know where they want to go.

  • aquifer

    Ritchie knows you can’t out Sinn Fein Sinn Fein, so she does not play footsie with Fianna Fail and goes for the red jungular.

    Ritchie does not put a foot wrong.

    Tailspin for Sinn Fein anyone?

  • Chris Donnelly

    3.Ritchie knows you can’t out Sinn Fein Sinn Fein, so she does not play footsie with Fianna Fail and goes for the red jungular.

    Ritchie does not put a foot wrong.

    Tailspin for Sinn Fein anyone?

    Aquifer
    You can’t *really* believe that, can you? So Ritchie’s after Sinn Fein’s urban left-wing vote then and has given up on pursuing the party’s traditional rural centrist nationalist vote.

    This one makes the Stalingrad strategists look like geniuses!

  • Conall

    I think Ritchie’s made a serious miscalculation. The SDLP will likely lose one of their three seats, see their majorities further cut in the other two, and Fianna Fail in the North, which apparently number in the 100s at least, are beginning to canvass for the Greens. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a FF option next year, Ritchie’s burning more bridges than she can afford to!!

  • Wan

    @Alias
    Yes, but to a lesser extent. A political relationship is what you make of it and the two organisations are and were tiny, there was very little co-operation between the two.

    On Margarets speach, she was invited as SDLP leader and was always going to talk about “local” issues, starting to give out about NAMA and Anglo in detail would have been stepping on Gilmores toes.

  • Dunumian

    I agree with Conall in his posting Ritchie ballsed it up and there are a lot of angry Fianna Fail people over the years who went the extra mile for the SDLP at election time and successive Fianna Fail Taoisigh who kept doors open for them and this is how they are repaid getting stabbed in the back by a newbie at a Labour Conference in Galway-
    I think personally that as a result of this in South Down that a lot of the electorate will vote for Ruane
    It could end up like Newry & Armagh despite a significant Unionist vote will plump for Sinn Fein
    and Fianna Fail will be given the Green Light to run for Local Councils and Assembly Elections next year

  • Lionel Hutz

    I’m not sure how to react to this one. It is undoubtedly the case that the link to FF was one of convenience. In truth I do not think the SDLP should have been too cosy with FF and a proper link up just isn’t natural – the SDLPs old-labour style principles just don’t marry well with FF. Those in the SDLP who like FF, like the idea of being potentially part of the most successful political party in Europe since WW2 but are so detached that they don’t see the blatant contradictions in policy.

    I don’t believe there is any natural policy link-up with any party in the south, but Margaret Ritchie’s leadership is certainly taking the party back to that old labour style and the Labour are a good link-up in that respect.

    There are certain aspects of this that I just don’t like. Ritchie cannot protect public services long-term, it’s just mnot viable. Just as much as we need water charges. In the south, NAMA, despite it’s pain, is going to save the Irish economy or atleast Ireland’s reputation. That sort of head-in-the-sand politics undermines the credibility of their policies. The SDLP need to confront some hard truths to sieze the centre ground in N.I. Labour will never do this in the south, SDLP seem to be rowing back in the North

  • Lionel Hutz

    I’m not sure how to react to this one. It is undoubtedly the case that the link to FF was one of convenience. In truth I do not think the SDLP should have been too cosy with FF and a proper link up just isn’t natural – the SDLPs old-labour style principles just don’t marry well with FF. Those in the SDLP who like FF, like the idea of being potentially part of the most successful political party in Europe since WW2 but are so detached that they don’t see the blatant contradictions in policy.

    I don’t believe there is any natural policy link-up with any party in the south, but Margaret Ritchie’s leadership is certainly taking the party back to that old labour style and the Labour are a good link-up in that respect.

    There are certain aspects of this that I just don’t like. Ritchie cannot protect public services long-term, it’s just mnot viable. Just as much as we need water charges. In the south, NAMA, despite it’s pain, is going to save the Irish economy or atleast Ireland’s reputation. That sort of head-in-the-sand politics undermines the credibility of their policies. The SDLP need to confront some hard truths to sieze the centre ground in N.I. Labour will never do this in the south, SDLP seem to be rowing back in the North

  • Burma Grill

    Good gosh, shock horror, Margaret seems to have unilaterally changed the SDLP’s future preferred Southern partner/bedfellow. A play by Goldsmiths comes to mind:- “She stoops to conquer”.

  • sammaguire

    Maybe FF should go it alone in the north.

    Really they are somewhere in between SF and SDLP.

    Personally as a mainly FF voter I can relate to SF having an Ard Fheis rather than a West Brit style “Party Conference”. I always think of Brighton or Blackpool when I hear that irritating term for some reason. Also I can relate to SF’s abstentionist policy re Westminster.

    As to Ms Ritchie’s pals mentioned in the speech….spot the odd one out: Mervyn Taylor, Dick Spring, James Connolly, Eamon Gilmore, Ruairi Quinn. Not very difficult I know! James Connelly is the only one not to have attended an exclusive rugby-playing fee paying private school! The Labour Party front bench in the 1970s was once referred to as “The College Of Surgeons”…some things never change!!