Irish News reveals O’Loan is far from isolated on unity call

Today’s Irish News revealed that Declan O’Loan wasn’t on a solo run with his remarks on Nationalist Unity and enjoys sizeable support for his comments across the SDLP.

The paper noted:

Despite members of his North Antrim constituency giving him their full support, Mr O’Loan was forced to retract the statement

It also states:

However, The Irish News has learned that Mr O’Loan received unanimous support from senior grassroots members and councillors at his Ballymena constituency office last Thursday

It notes around 20 people attended the meeting where his thoughts were discussed, including Moyle Councillors.

SDLP Councillor Catherine McCambridge was quoted as giving her backing to O’Loan following the story breaking and insisting the SDLP needed to ‘move on’ adding the idea of nationalist unity was ‘worthwhile pursuing in the longterm’.

Cllr Orla Black was also quoted as saying O’Loan and grassroots members of the SDLP were all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ and ‘we want to start discussions’

As yet neither of these Councillors or other party members have been publicly censured like O’Loan.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    While I think that Nationalism/Republicanism needs two Parties rather than one Party… would have the effect of isolating the no marks in the dissident movement even further.

  • White Horse

    It’s a non runner, so far as I am concerned.

  • Mark McGregor


    I thought that myself, Orla Black had just got a guaranteed run at the Assembly and O’Loan would be deselected. Then I read the IN and it seems not only has O’Loan got support in his branch but the SDLP don’t even have a decent replacement or anyone likely to canvass for them if they do boot him next year.

  • RepublicanStones

    This gets more interesting. So O’Loan’s kite flying exercise didn’t come completely out of left field as regards the entire party. Which leaves us to surmise (which is the fun part) as to what Ritchie’s thinking is.

    Is it now that she’s the Toop* she won’t countenance anything which will endanger her ability to lead a party. Or is she, by humiliating O’Loan, attempting to save face from her earlier statements on so called ‘unity’ with regard to the whole handbags session over FST? Perhaps it’s her aversion to those with cordite on their cuffs which precipitated her treatment of O’Loan, even though O’Loan didn’t necessarily mean what she perhaps thought he meant. Will we find out…..

    *Toop – Top Stoop

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    So basically O’Loan needs the SDLP to stand a reasonable chance of getting elected.
    And the SDLP needs O’Loan (their biggest local hitter) to have a reasonable chance of keeping the seat.
    Not in O’Loans interest to be standing as an Independent.
    Not in SDLPs interest to select Orla Black (even if she wanted the nomination) and have her try to hold their seat against an “Independent” O’Loan.
    So whatever about local rows, losing the whip, internal disputes and Irish News headlines …..the balance of probabilities is that by the time the Assembly Election rolls around….all will be one big happy family again. Or seemingly so.

  • BOM

    I think we are looking too far ahead of ourselves to be talking about Declan not being selected for the Assembly election. I dont think the issue will go on as long as that and if it does I would question why?

    Orla Black is now based in the East Antrim constituency and it is unlikely that she would seek nomination in North Antrim if she does seek it anywhere. Maybe she has blotted her copy book now in supporting O’Loan?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Its probably got a lot to do with Ritchies leadership.
    The Election Debate was an embarrassment for the Party.
    With Ritchie only being an elected on a narrow majority (and outflanking MacDonnell and the senior figures in the Party in the process)…….a “better” leader would have put Party unity towards the top of the agenda.
    She has managed to piss off a few of her colleagues.
    Time or Patsy McGlone to tell her a few home truths ..thats a good role for a Deputy.
    At this rate I cant see Ritchie being a long term leader.

  • Mark McGregor

    She (whoever has her ear) clearly want to enforce more discipline and this was a clear issue to show authority -also clearly needed in a party so rudderless for over a decade. However, she didn’t even do ‘suspended without prejudice pending party investigation’ – he got booted, no appeal, no way to get back beyond her whim. She out-shinnered the shinners on lack of transparency/internal democracy and played it worse in the media.

    They clearly need to get tough and agree a message but it was a public discplinary without any clear process that could potential alieniate a branch defending a vulnerable seat.

    I’m thinking of it as a required attitude from SDLP HQ in whipping a fractured party into shape but a very poorly executed first attempt that may have done much more damage than good.

  • Ritchie may not be much but she fought the battle. I have little time for those who wait for weakness and then pounce, like a hyena in an African night.

    Any alliance between SDLP and SF, with no alternative from the south to mitigate the blow, will lose independent and persuadable unionists.

    A pity Mr O’Loan, so good at math, could not add that up.

  • RepublicanStones

    Thats a good possibility Mark, but consensus rather than coercion would be better suited to a ‘rudderless’ party. So as you say, more harm than good.

    If she maintains this attitude how long before we see the likes of Attwood’s and McGlone’s names on Paddy Power with odds beside them?

  • slug

    Nationalist unity would have the advantage of allowing a Labour party to stand as such.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    It might indeed have Conalls “New SDLP” fingerprints all over it and while the SDLP is clearly a Party that needs a focus and professionalism, Margaret Ritchie seems to have gone nuclear on a very small issue.
    Ultimately with just 16 MLAs, Ritchie cant afford to offend them at the rate shes doing now.
    I have no idea how the SDLP can “recall” a Leader but there a growing number of MLAs with enough reason to dislike her.
    As I recall she was only ahead of MacDonnell by about 30 votes in February.
    Id guess that more than 16 of them think they made a big mistake.
    Getting her out with a bit of dignity……..decide that the Party Leader should bea full time Stormont member and isolate her at Westminster is a good option.

  • slug

    FJH that might have worked had the SDLP done badly at the GE. But in fact the SDLP did well, and Margaret did well in the second and more important of the two leader debates.

  • “and enjoys sizeable support for his comments across the SDLP.”

    Amongst a few people in North Antrim maybe but anyone I have spoken to was horrified at his remarks and the unilateral way in which they were released.

  • Mark McGregor

    Two Councillors and the bulk of a branch (20 odd members) seems sizeable for the SDLP when many of their reps operate without a functoning branch of any note.

  • I understand the SDLP, or at least its. current, leader, had some leaning toward Labour, and Labour have talked of campaigning in the north, but I have seen no hard evidence of intent, either way, and frankly will believe it when I see it.

    This sounds to me more like shuffling for position than serious intent, regardless, its typical ‘politician’ stuff and not what I, at any rate, would ever be persuaded to vote for. Ritchie needed another year. She was denied it, but I would rather support someone who seems to be improving than someone apparently hoping the corpse is lifeless before it attacks…

  • slug


    O’Loan’s comments do make it harder to believe one is voting for a Labour option when voting SDLP.

  • slug

    1967: correction, I meant to say : “O’Loan’s comments do make it harder to believe one is voting for a Labour option when voting O’Loan.”

  • Henry94

    I must say this is music to my ears and it has nothing to do with sectarian headcounts. It has to do with uniting the nationalist people so that they can speak with one voice to the nationalists in the south and ask them to join in a new great national movement. We have united under O’Connell, under Parnell and under Sinn Fein in the past to pursue national objectives.

    It may take a generation to bring the two sides together and generational change will probably happen in Sinn Fein first. But I believe the nationalist population want in. Everybody I have spoken to about this is delighted with the O’Loan intervention. He has demonstrated tremendous vision.

  • slug

    If Ritchie goes so, probably, does the ‘labour option’. I am not convinced the lady is going anywhere. She has shown improving ability and a ruthlessness to match.

  • Tony Baloney

    Is Orla Black making an early play for Shinner second preferences in East Antrim should she succeed in running for the post? She is a Moyle local and would command reasonable support along the coast I would imagine. Or am I giving her too much credit and in reality she has shafted any career within the SDLP by publically backing O’Loan against party policy?!

  • Drumlin Rock

    LOL, I just love it when the other side talk of unity it is “a sectarian headcount” but def not when your own side says it.

  • slug

    “ple so that they can speak with one voice to the nationalists in the south and ask them to join in a new great national movement”

    only to receive a new great “no thanks”.

  • anne warren

    Some people seem cross with Mr O Loan!

    Mr O‘Loan was suspended from the SDLP‘s Stormont Assembly group but continues to be a member of the overall party. It is understood it may not be reinstated until September.

    An SDLP spokesman said: “Following a meeting with party leader Margaret Ritchie this morning, the party whip has been removed from Declan O’Loan MLA until a future date, to be determined by the party leader.”

  • slug

    I am sure Ritchie will continue as leader. the election was a success after all.. It looks like the SDLP could win one or two seats at the next Assembly election and get a second minister (if there are still 10 at that time…). I do know people who vote SDLP for the social democratic as opposed to nationalist aspect. If there ia a Nat-Unity party, then those who argue for a Labour party option in NI will have a – surely decisive – argument that the SDLP is no longer there and what is there is no longer Labour.

  • Alias

    I can’t see the two catholic parties merging even though it would be in the interests of their tribe if they did – mainly that it would give them the first choice on the finance department as the largest party in Stormont.

    But it would also leave a vacancy for an alternative catholic party, since there will always be be those disagree with some policy or action of the catholic establishment party (which is what a merger would create) within the British state and since this vote is tribal then it would stay on its own side on the sectarian political system. And where then can it go if it stays within the sectarian divide?

    Step forward alternative catholic parties. Although both catholic parties support the sectarian GFA, a party could emerge that did not support it and this party could gain support by being on the left of an establishment catholic party that was administering British rule in a finance ministry that was forced to the right of centre by directive of the central government in the UK.

    Mark’s favourite Northern Irish socialist party just might fit the bill. For that reason, I can’t see the handlers of the Shinners giving them the nod to merge with the Stoops. And without their permission, it’s all just puppets and invisible strings…

  • so say us all

  • slug

    Firm leadership! Well done Margaret!

  • Some people seem to be cross with Mr O’Loan…

    You could say that…its almost an English understatement…

  • Mark McGregor


    The graph demonstrates the SDLP did far from well in the GE.

    They continued at the same terrible level they’ve been at for years.

  • Mark McGregor

    Slug, no it doesn’t.

    The graph and the results show they were at risk of losing two seats and with this a third is now a possible drop:

    The GE was another SDLP failure. Tis an easily seen trend of down not arrested in the slightest by Ritchie nevermind growth.

  • slug

    A good post.

    If unionists were to unite, and nationalists to unite, then there would be room for new parties to emerge. Politics abhors a vacuum.

  • Henry94

    Bad bad move. It looks like fear rather than decisiveness.

  • Henry94

    When parties with serious differences come together to keep the other side out then you can use the headcount argument. But if like-minded parties and people of any stripe felt they were close enough on policy to contemplate real unity then it is not fair to call it a headcount based decision.

    Because in that case you could make the point about the founding of the SDLP!

  • socaire

    Aye, but can she walk the talk or will it be a bottle job? Heh heh.

  • Johno

    Margaret is just doing what all STOOPS do…anything to please the Prods.

  • There are those, expletive deleted, who forget: when two Irish tempers meet the ‘big wind’ of 1839 is but a breeze in comparison.

  • socaire

    I think a merger would be a brilliant idea. They could call themselves The Shoops and could select ex-Stoops to stand in the British General Election. Then if they won any seats, they could affirm their loyalty, SF would be in the British Parliament and everybody would be happy and all principles intacta.

  • I sometimes wonder, just a fleeting thought, how many comments are real, and how many are just some nut ‘talking to him/herself…

    I think Ritchie will prevail, for the next year or so at least. Any alliance with the murderous would lose serious votes, and worse the prospect of votes…

  • Comrade Stalin


    That was my reaction as well.

    Rather than allow this thing to quietly go away, Ritchie has actually had the effect of thrusting it back into the spotlight and making the hole look bigger and wider than it was before. Contrast with the plots that were undoubtedly being hatched against Robbo earlier this year – yet the assembly party were all brought into line without any kind of public punishment taking place.

    This is really symptomatic of the way Ritchie feels that she has to run the party – by making big dramatic strokes rather than focussing on subtleties and details. The way she behaved in the USA was an earlier sample of this – making lots of noise to draw attention to the weakness of her own position.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Any alliance with the murderous would lose serious votes, and worse the prospect of votes…

    It’s too late for that. Hume-Adams started 20 years ago.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nonsense! It started something, where we, the people, take it is up to us…

    The SDLP with John Hume took a risk which has paid dividends for Ireland in general and the north in particular. No reason to believe the party cannot move on from there, especially when you remember SF are not even skin deep.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nonsense, the IRA were in talks with the British about finding a way out long before they got John Hume involved. Hume did not deliver the IRA ceasefire, the British did that; rather, he delivered Catholic votes to Sinn Fein.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You think John Hume had no idea it may have been ‘wheels within wheels’? I doubt that. John Hume knew his stuff!

    The Brits may, or may not, have been more ‘involved’ than anyone knew, but peace was delivered and there is real choice, thats what matters. SF, if they are as indebted to the Brits as some, and not just you, suggest, will do as they are told and continue to deliver the peace until there is no further need of them.

  • wee buns

    Shoops: Excellent.

  • I see the herd have discovered the thread…

    I have better things to do, sleep…perchance to dream..

    thats English….

  • Lionel Hutz

    Would that be the graph you failed to correct despite the fact that it should show SZdLP gaining 1% share and SF losing 0.7% share since 2007- despite your posturing!

  • Lionel Hutz

    Would that be the graph you failed to correct despite the fact that it should show SDLP gaining 1% share and SF losing 0.7% share since 2007- despite your posturing!

  • georgie leigh

    As a Nationalist, I feel it would me a mistake for Nationalists to have one party. A mistake I am happy for unionists to make.

    The constituency in NI that is increasing in the non-aligned one. A nationalist party should be moving into this ground, and a unified Nationalist party would be slower in this regard.

    Theoretically, SF – a reublican party – should be in the vanguard for this vote. But the reality is that SF is a greener party than the SDLP. The gap is narrowing though, and in a couple of years time it is possible than urban, leftie Shinners could outflank unionists for the middle ground (badly worded, I know!)

  • Lionel Hutz

    Amazing that McGregor is allowed to post a graph as an illustration that SDLP will lose two seats despite the fact that the SDLP gained in %share of the vote and SF dropped since 2007. This may infringe ball not man rule but after pointing out his mistake, he decided to man-play me. Just another posturing stooge.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I was just about to switch off, as I promised myself I would…when I noticed your comment. Sure now you know the saying: Lies, lies, and damned statistics, or in this case graphs…

    To win a united Ireland we need independent and unionist votes. Im sure you know: the more some people say, the further away the goal…

  • SharedFutureOrBust

    Let me get this straight, you’re attacking Hume for trying to talk the gunmen into adopting the democratic method and leave terrorism behind?knowing as any reasonable person does that there is of course a massive difference between urging them to give up their guns and praising/endorsing their bombings?

    It’s this plague on all your houses stuff that puts me right off the Alliance Party.

  • Lionel Hutz


    I had a wee joke regarding the mistake but was strongly rebuked. So I politely gave links to the correct figures and the graph still hasn’t been corrected. I’m not surprised though given the history

  • Daithi


    “Margaret Ritchie seems to have gone nuclear on a very small issue.”

    Rubbish – in no way was this a “small issue”, this was the biggest issue of all – does the SDLP have a future as a party of it’s own.

    Anyone who believes that the SDLP has an independent future (free from being swallowed up from Sinn Fein) should rally round Margaret Ritchie in the stance she has taken.

  • 1IslandNation

    There will eventually be one unified nationalist party.. it’s only common sense. If the unionists do it we’ll have no choice.
    The last elections proved that nationalism is on the rise and the unionist dream of making a united Ireland a ‘non issue’ is nowhere on the horizon.

  • Monkdewallydehonk


    I think you’re both spot on. This was typical Ritchie – using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. She has simply made things worse (from an SDLP point of view).

    I’m not a SF voter but, from their point of view, the SDLP electing Ritchie as leader was a Godsend.

    She is a total embarrassment – her performance in the first debate was completely laughable – she was slightly better in the second but that was starting from the lowest possible base.

    I’m looking forward to seeing some of her speeches in Westminster for comedy value – always assuming that she is planning to turn up more frequently than her colleagues – although that would hardly be difficult.

    I had to laugh at the SDLP slogan “We’ll be there” – if they’d been honest it should have read “We’ll be there for a very small percentage of the time”.

    As to her much vaunted claim that they’ll use their influence for the good of the North – what f***ing influence? – the Cons/Lib Dems have absolutely no need of NI votes – a fact that will become immediately clear even to people as slow as SDLP MPs.

    I have a lot of issues with SF. However, their dominance of the Nationalist electorate will simply continue to grow as more and more Nationalists (particularly younger ones) realise that the SDLP is largely made of up and only interested in middle-aged, middle class Catholics.

    Their arrogance would be annoying if it wasn’t so misplaced and laughable.

    IMO, it would be impossible for anyone to turn SDLP fortunes around – but they have guaranteed that by electing the worst possible person for the job.

  • slug

    Pull the other one.

  • Mark McGregor


    Despite your whinging (and by god do you do a lot) the minor alteration does nothing to impact on the trends:

    Thats why I’ve been ignoring your incessant wittering.

  • KPB

    Sinn Féin and the SDLP are discrete entities, a unity party would only unite politicians and divide voters.

  • KPB

    You could critise the SDLP for being in permanent opposition in Westminister, Sinn Fein are tied in an unifluential bloc in Europe, that is hardly a bloc to begin with.

    Where is their influence there?

  • Eire32

    SFSDLP Ourselves alone and the Social Democratic and Labour Party

  • KPB

    When were the Irish Labour Party an anti-GFA one?

    People before Profit Alliance were a de facto anti-GFA party, you seriously believe the “leftwing” of both the SDLP and Sinn Féin concerned about British Rule would jump aboard that ship?

    I say Gerry McHugh, Slyvia Herman, Alan McFarland had the right idea, if no party respects your opinions be an independent.

    Other than McHugh, McGeough, and those RSF people who are classified as independents, how many independent nationalists’ alternative ideas would be palatable to the electorate.

  • Jean Meslier

    Theres only one thing worse than electing the worst possible person for the job, and thats electing the worst possible person for the job who thinks she’s a natural born leader.

    I tell you it’s all Conall’s fault. The non-elected guru believes he is the special one and so does Mags. Unfortunately for the SDLP this new-style of leadership will take the house down

    Monkdewallydehonk said:
    “…As to her much vaunted claim that they’ll use their influence for the good of the North – what f***ing influence? –…”
    I agree totally. This was all based around the media invented pre-election hype. Do you remember Maggie’s inability to say a sentence without the word representation?
    It was all taken and voiced with the utmost sincerity and importance by the usual anti-shinner brigade on Slugger.

    Influence my ar*e!

  • Lionel Hutz


    you are suggesting it shows that SDLP is losing out from 2007. The graph if it was correct would show SF slipping and SDLP gaining since 2007. So how can you be genuine

  • redhugh78

    If O loan was serious then he is about 3 weeks too late.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You think John Hume had no idea it may have been ‘wheels within wheels’? I doubt that. John Hume knew his stuff!

    All John Hume knew about was furthering his own career and reputation in the minds of gullible people at the expense of his own party.

    The Brits may, or may not, have been more ‘involved’ than anyone knew, but peace was delivered and there is real choice, thats what matters.

    Agreed, so please stop falsely claiming that John Hume was responsible. He wasn’t. The IRA was defeated and wanted to find a way out that would maximise the political benefit to Sinn Fein. John Hume was the key to that strategy. The idea that the IRA were in a position to continue their war, and would have done so had Hume not been involved, is not borne out by the facts.

    Let me get this straight, you’re attacking Hume for trying to talk the gunmen into adopting the democratic method and leave terrorism behind?

    No, I’m not. I’m attacking the people who claim that Hume is responsible for the peace here. He isn’t. The IRA were fought to a standstill and lost. That’s why they stopped.

    It’s this plague on all your houses stuff that puts me right off the Alliance Party.

    I am not making a “plague on all your houses” argument. I’m pointing out that the idea that the IRA were wedded to violence and were happy to continue blowing up and shooting people until John Hume turned up one day and said “lads, here’s an idea – why don’t we give peace a chance?” is so ridiculous that only the most naive of people would believe it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Brits needed John Hume just as they needed David Trimble. It had to be a united front, or the cracks, so visible now, would have ripped the GFA apart before the ink was dry.

    John Hume knew that, he was no fool. He put his people and his country first.

    There are still problems, but so far they are manageable. John Hume, by giving his name and his party to the GFA, gave everyone time.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As “Slug” has pointed out the SDLP did well in the General Election. Its obituary has been written many times on Slugger O’Toole but thankfully its alive and well……and History will be kinder to it than it will be to many of the SDLP detractors.
    And indeed I suspect it will pick up a seat or two next year.
    Almost certainly in West Tyrone.
    Probably in East Antrim and Strangford.
    It might well lose out in North Antrim. Possibly South Antrim but with a fair wind it will do ok.
    That second Executive seat is a real possibility and indeed I wish them well.
    But Margaret Ritchie is not an asset.
    They did well IN SPITE of Margaret not BECAUSE of Margaret.
    The best case scenario for margaret and the SDLP is for her to resign the Stormont seat and get a new person in to South Down (Farrell, O’Neill……maybe both to replace the ageing mediocrity that is PJ Bradley)…..resign the leadership to concentrate on Westminster. The South Down seat is effectively a SDLP sinecure. And she could be MP there for 20 years without being allowed near anything where she could do damage.