Should nationalism unify? And if so, why?

There are no indications that there has been any serious contemplation of an O’Loan scenario, in which the SDLP might seek terms with Sinn Fein inside the former. But in today’s Irish Times Fionnuala O’Connor thinks there might be some mileage in it. She notes the immediate context for the idea:

Realignment inside unionism has been much discussed, if not to much purpose, since defeat for both the UU and DUP leaders at the polls on May 6th. By contrast any question of nationalist realignment had been swept off the table in advance by the Ritchie leadership, though most assessments saw no yearning for closer ties with Sinn Féin in any case.

And she points to what may have been key to the immediate reckoning of the North Antrim MLA:

On May 6th Sinn Féin’s Dáithi McKay won 12.4 per cent to O’Loan’s 8.8 per cent. Without an improvement, O’Loan will struggle to hold his Stormont seat next year. In 2007 he made it thanks to Sinn Féin transfers on the last count.

And finally:

The aftermath of his lunge at policymaking should be revealing. He is not the only anxious MLA, questioning party direction and even existence. The IRA is gone. Constitutional Sinn Féin has yet to convince the battle-scarred SDLP. Proposing amalgamation with their bitterest enemy still sounds like desperation. The party was set up to counter violent republicanism.

A few years back merging with Sinn Féin was unmentionable, when an insider saw the choices as a merger with Fianna Fáil or Labour, or to simply shut up shop. SDLP voters would have a viable option. “The Shinners are now the Stickies, so why not?”

Good question. Why not indeed? I tempted to retort, “because they can’t think of a better reason for living on their own?” But we’ve seen this same issue discussed on the Unionist unity threads, does it actually do nationalism any favours to have single party, particularly when STV fragments rather than builds single power blocs? And if it were decided that it would, then what terms could the SDLP expect from Sinn Fein?

Note: I am more than happy to take guest blogs on this subject as well as the unionist from any and every point of view…

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  • joeCanuck

    I think it’s much too early to even have such a discussion. Sinn fein do give the appearance of being wedded to constitution methods only but occasionally words slip out which give rise to little doubts about the total committment of some in their Assembly grouping.

  • Good thread statement my view is that theres no way back for the SDLP. I think they will take a further hit at next years assembly elections which I think could well all but finish them off.The realization from that will either be a realignment or simply to shut up shop or to enter merging with fianna fail.I suspect merging with fianna fail would be by far there best course of action.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The short answer is NO. A resounding NO.
    The essence of Politics is that we all have alternatives for our vote.
    What alternative does a “Nationalist/Republican” have to a single Nationalist/Republican party……Dissidents? The Alliance Party?
    Currently the SDLP has the AP to one side and SF-IRA to the other.
    Currently SF-IRA has the SDLP to one side and dissident nihilism to the other.
    They are therefore providing alternatives. And whatever the rivalry, the personality, the animosity and occasional hatred between Party members “on the ground”, this is not necessarily the case within the Stormont Building and certainly NOT the case with actual voters…..who I suggest matter more than politicians and journalists and no mark commentators like me.
    Typically Ms O’Connor thinks the “Shinners are now the Stickies”. And how many MLAs has that Party/s had in the last 40 years, Fionnuala? Er….none.
    Shes wrong.
    If theres a comparison….SF-IRA are in the place where Devs Fianna Fáil was in the late 1920s. Partly constitutional.
    Its generational of course. In 10 years time its unlikely many SF MLAs/candidates will have the same profile/history they have today and its natural that experience of government and their nightly appearance on our TV screens will soften the image further.
    I have made the case again and again that SF-IRA and SDLP are actually two sides of the one coin. It is a thought that horrifies the partisans.
    How dare I compare “them” with “terrorists”?
    How dare I compare “them” with collaborating “Stoops”?
    I dare. I dare.
    The good place where nationalism/republicanism is…is down to both the heroic politics pursued by the SDLP (notably under John Hume) and indeed the violence of the IRA.
    Politics alone would not have won it.
    Neither would the gun and bomb.
    Thats an unfortunate part of life …and death.
    As the most iconic mural in Belfast proclaims “Republican and otherwise has a part to play”.
    And of course nationalists/republicans alike are enjoying the laughter of their children and grandchildren.
    I suppose its the fruition of the pan nationalist alliance (factor in Gaelic language, GAA and to some extent Catholic education).
    Of course this is merely my analysis.
    Partisans wont agree. I dont care. My grandchildren will be here in about 15 minutes.

  • perhaps with both the UUP and SDLP having similar problems they should both merge with Alliance.???

  • Song for the Republican Convention

    Why would any SDLP member want to merge with a party who:
    1) were happy to give away a nationalist seat at the executive table just to spite the SDLP
    2) to quote their leader “aren’t interested in the economy,”
    3) have failed in government to make any positive tangible changes
    4) wasted public money on failures in RPA and ESA
    5) have no desire for a shared future
    6) want to ban us all from protesting and parading and
    7) have no plan for unity bar outbreeding the ‘other side’
    8) have a leader embroiled in scandal

  • Neil

    Nope. Non runner, the stoops have nothing to offer really, and it won’t advance the nationalist cause one iota. Coming from a SF voting perspective, unity is the endgame. Having the stoops on board won’t increase the likelihood of that one bit. The only reason I can think why anyone would suggest it would be to get someone the FM job without the word deputy, but in the end DFM and FM are equal in everything bar name, so it would be a cosmetic wind-up-the-unionists move which is pointless.

    Better to let the stoops continue their downward spiral which I expect to see resume in earnest in the election next year.

  • HeinzGuderian

    When the good people of West Belfast grow a set of balls………………..perhaps we may be able to move onto what passes for ‘normal’ politics ??

  • TheHorse

    Interesting article/survey in the Anderstown News about the subject asking the electorate of West Belfast what they thought about it and they did not get many negitive answers. The majority of people asked thought it was a good idea which is interesting because this is a Sinn Fein supported paper. Two Nationalist parties with similar ideologies fighting for the same cause and seats in elections, with the SDLP getting a reminder in FST that when Nationalists are forced to choose between them and Sinn Fein they will jump en masse. In the long term this could and might happen as the present setup at stormont will not be in place forever, eventually it will be back to the same as everywhere else – A Government and an Opposition.

  • Henry94

    You wouldn’t start with unity but parties with broadly similar objectives and policies should certainly have a better relationship.


    STV fragments rather than builds single power blocs

    That is true and the whole may be less than the sum of the parts so let it be clear from the outset that it is not about getting one over on the unionists in elections. It is a much bigger issue than that. Northern nationalism speaking with a single voice to Dublin would be a key objective in my view.

    With the probable demise of Fianna Fail we could be faced with (to put it very unkindly) a Blueshirt/Sticky coalition in Dublin for ten years. Those parties were traditionally hostile to Sinn Fein and often antipathetic to the SDLP

    Competing for their attention is not in the interests of either party or nationalism in general. A united front is essential and that should be the first item on the agenda.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The answer to the question posed is understandably tribal? Ask the same question in East Belfast about unionist unity and youd get the same answer.
    The voters are “ahead” or “behind” the politicians and partisans.
    All Parties are coalitions. The pan nationalist front is effectively a coalition of SDLP and SF-IRA.
    The figures show that there are currently 27 SF plus McHugh plus 16 SDLP…..44
    While the partisans and bloggerati are concerned with nuance, the bottom line next year is whether 44 becomes 43 or 45. Not the proportions. Thats what actually concerns the (nationalist/republican)voters.

  • TheHorse

    WOW the Sinn Fein/IRA line. Are we still going to hear/see that in another 20 years, you can forgive the Nationalist electorate if they completely disregard Unionists who peddle that line as the same people never seem to accept the DUP/Ulster Resistance connection.

  • Alias

    “The party was set up to counter violent republicanism.”

    If so then it has fulfilled its purpose and is now redundant. The logical outworking is for the old stoop party to merge with the new stoop party to form the new improved stoop party – now with 15% more pseudo-moral purpose.

  • Mick Fealty

    Agree with most of that.

  • bigchiefally

    No, they shouldnt merge.

    It alienates unionists and with that makes a united Ireland less likely.

  • Alias

    Neil might have a point. Rather than merge, it might be better for the Shinners to continuing doing to the SDLP what their counterparts in the DUP are doing to the UUP: absorbing them by stealth at each election. That way, in the longer game, they get the gain without the strain. If O’Connor is right about O’Loan’s constituency circumstances then career folks will read the writing on the wall and go with whichever party can offer them a viable politial career – which isn’t likely to be the SDLP.

  • Alias

    To add to that: donations also tend to follow the winners, so once a party is seen to be on a sliding curve then the prospect of bankruptcy can be the deciding factor in shutting up shop – particularly when that party has ambitions to compete with the well-funded big boys.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    @TheHorse — exactly how would you compare the IRA with Ulster resistance?

  • Nomad

    If nationalist parties merge, or indeed unionist parties merge then it would be inevitable that their votes, and certainly their electoral successes would go down.

    If you were a nationalist voter remotely unhappy with the sole nationalist party, it wouldn’t take much to persuade you to vote for Alliance, or any other new party that might fill a vacuum.

    I would suggest that the SDLP put nationalism as a secondary objective and demonstrate why people should vote for them on bread and butter issues. Something I don’t think they have successfully conveyed. Perhaps then they might attract people of all backgrounds across NI.

    In short, I think this whole question matters much more to the parties than to the electorate.

  • Henry94

    If you mixed the SDLP and Sinn Fein you would eventually get, in terms of behavior and day to day policy, something that looked a lot more like the SDLP than Sinn Fein.

    Given that Unionism’s best case fantasy scenario is to be in government with the SDLP and not Sinn Fein then they should welcome it.

    We have two major voting blocks and four major government parties. One way or another there will only be two parties standing in the end. That is because the system doesn’t put them in opposition which is how parties grow in the normal course of events.

    On both sides I would rather see the endangered, smaller and moderate party bringing its influence to the table while it still can.

  • TheHorse

    Did Ulster Resistance along with the UDA, UVF not rob banks, sell state secrets in return for money to bring hundreds of rifles, rocket launchers, hand granades into the county that were then used to murder innocent people. Are you saying they were not a loyalist paramilitary terrorist group ?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Ulster Resistance were something of a joke, albeit a rather sick one. They most certainly had links with loyalist paramilitaries and the DUP folly in setting up UR, despite it’s severing of links within a year, was to say the least, extremely foolish.
    I also have no doubt that, whilst a large proportion of the UR arms were seized, some will have been subsequently used by loyalists paramilitaries in the murders of innocent people.

    However to equate a very short lived ‘force’ with the concerted PIRA murder campaign, still glorified by SF today, is rather like comparing the gestapo to the key stone cops.

  • redhugh

    Here’s one good reason why

  • TheHorse

    Gerry its interesting the way you can minimise DUP connected terrorism like bank robberies, arms smuggling, suppling guns that were used in the murder of innocent Nationalists. They and the DUP’s connection to them may seem like a joke to you but they obviously were not a joke or a micky mouse terrorist outfit to those people who were murdered with the weapons they helped bring into the country.

  • BOM

    “If you mixed the SDLP and Sinn Fein you would eventually get, in terms of behavior and day to day policy, something that looked a lot more like the SDLP than Sinn Fein.” Henry94

    That is exactly what Declan was trying to say I think. A single Nationalisy party would be more like the SDLP than anything else. Declan knows that.

    You are right too about there only being two parties at the top anyway and no opposition so what difference would it make if there was always only one party?

    The difference would be that the whole Nationalist community would have the one, same voice, and the community would be represented better than they are now.

    Sinn Fein will not gain more whilst the SDLP will not lose more give or take one or two seats for both parties. There is stalemate in Nationalist politics and there does need to be some sort of change.

    Those voting for the SDLP are not getting the opportunity to be represented at all times because the two largest parties make sure they leave them out of things etc etc. Maybe if there was one party, far more similar to the SDLP way of thinking, there would be a better voice for Nationalism?

  • The Irish have long, notoriously long, memories. It makes no difference if the Irishman calls himself a Brit or not. I think his reactions will be based on those memories.

    It is too soon for just one nationalist party in the north, especially if that party is SF by any other name.

    Two parties give a reasonable option.

  • Henry94

    Cripes! I thought they just had to sign it. That is humiliating.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    I’m not in any way minimising the stupidity and recklessness of the UR movement — and as with the entire episode of ‘the troubles’, not one death can be justified. I don’t however see the DUP glorifying the actions of the UVF/UDA and equally I don’t think there is any comparison between the provos and Ulster resistance in terms of the suffering caused.

  • slug

    So the merged party WOULD go to Westminster – if I am reading the above correctly?

  • Henry94

    I doubt it would be a deal-breaker. It would be something for an Ard Fheis to decide one way or the other. The party should be directed by its members.

  • socaire

    Sorta sums them up, doesn’t it?

  • Alias

    “So the merged party WOULD go to Westminster – if I am reading the above correctly?”

    The Shinners will take their seats at Westminister when their handlers think the time is right for them to complete that part of the normalisation process. That time won’t be until an expedient is devised that presents it as being in ‘nationalist’ interests so as not to leave too many of the sheep behind.

    A similiar expedient was devised in regard to another rubicon (the endorsement of British policing), and, of course, the sheep at the special Ard Fheis were also led to think that they were making that decision rather than endorsing a decision that was made for them by others.

  • JohnM

    I thought that Durkan once said they were allowed to say/sign a protest oath or something?

    Ritchie looks perfectly happy swearing allegiance to Queenie…

  • slug

    The Labour whip – to be retained at Westminster by new party?

  • redhugh

    and to think when her majesty’s finest were murdering irish men and women aswell as running the loyaist death squads,shoot to kill, diplock courts etc Hume,Mallon,Mc Grady and Hendron were happy to pledge their allegiance to Queen, her heirs and graces.

  • Alias

    Slug, I’d bet the house that a merger won’t occur. The reason is simply that it would create a vacancy in earnest for another catholic party to emerge – and there is only one promising candidate. Since that candidate is not pro-state, I can’t see the powers-that-be giving the leadership of the Shinners permission to merge. Remember that if the two catholic parties were permitted to merge then they would inevitably in control of the finance ministry and busying themselves implementing cuts in the subvention. That other candidate that isn’t pro-state is also socialist, so it is perfectly place to capitalise on displesure created by austerity measures implemented by establishment catholics on behalf of the British state.

  • Erasmus

    ‘An empty formula’
    – Eamon De Valera.

  • Alias

    One other important function that is served by having two catholic parties who have endorsed the legitimacy of British sovereignty instead of one is that one of them is able to use its success in attracting catholics from the other party to vote for it to deflect from its lack of success in attracting protestants to vote for it.

    Since its token unity agenda cannot be progressed by attracting catholics to vote for it, this dynamic retards any progress towards unity while presenting its success in attracting the other parties catholics as being evidence of growth in support for said token unity agenda.

    The Shinners will duly point to their extra seats in an internal British administration and say “Look how we are growing support for unity!”

    Great, kids, but maybe the trick to success under the sectarian GFA is to get protestants to vote for you and not just catholics.

    Of course, even if protestants were to vote for catholic parties in an internal British administration in any significant numbers that would still not progress a unity agenda since the former power of the internal British administration to change the constituional status of NI has been removed from it, so protestants can safely vote for catholic parties and vice versa without any danger of altering the constitutional status of NI.

    Stormont mattered to unionists when it had the power to change the constitutional staus of NI. The deluded catholics seem to think that it still does (or are led to think that it does), and that their progress in that arena does anything to advance the token unity agenda rather than simply advance their own selfish interests as a non-sovereign nation devoid of national rights within the legitimised British state.

    In reality then the ‘trick’ is not to get protestants to vote for you at all since no political party can alter said constituional status. So, more correctly, the trick is to get protestants to vote for unity, with political parties having no relevance to that agenda.

    However, no political party in NI can proffer unity since none of them have any authority to act as spokesmen or negoiators on behalf of the Irish state.

    The reality then is that they can do nothing whatsover of any consequence to progress the token unity agenda. In other words, the British state cut the balls of the little pups and rendered them into neutered catholic parties within the British state.

    So two catholic parties allows the catholic tribe to occupy itself chasing its own tail…

  • Mick Murphy

    It would be ironic that a Sinn Fein/SDLPmerger might actually make Sinn Fein more Republican politically.In the interest of maintaining power at any expense Sinn Fein seem to have ditched the legacy of Connolly and Pearse a long time ago.Maybe the SDLP intelligentia might broaden their political horizons into a true Republican party.

  • abucs

    I was thinking that one Nationalist Party would move some votes to Alliance as they would be the next best choice for a lot of dissaffected Nationalists.

    This influx of Nationalists might skew the Alliance Party stance on the union and end up actually being good for Nationalism.

    Or it could go the other way. It would in some respects make the Allaince Party the battleground for for any constitutional change.

    One Nationalist Party in NI should gain more support with southern voters as well. A joint Party in the north would be a much better chance of amalgamating with the Irish Labour Party and challenging for the place of the 2nd biggest Party in Ireland.

    FF and FG will be watching closely.

  • JohnM

    Comment number 1 on the video made me chuckle for some reason.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    and to think when the provos were beating and murdering Irish men, women & children, SF were still getting a respectable electoral mandate….cuts both ways redhugh.

    And as for the principled SF abstentionism, that will be dumped whenever expedient, just as sure as the u-turns on decommissioning, policing and partition.

  • Brian Walker


    While I’m not around pick up all the vibes, I don’t quite understand why you think the SDLP is doomed not to have a sense of purpose. All parties are moving from peace process into a new uncertain era. Tradition and the sectarian divide will continue to dominate but left-right poltiics with gradations in between cuts acoss the basic split.

    It’s important not to get transfixed by the zero sum of the two political poles. Centre parties offer choice and competition within each camp and help soften the extremes. They exert – or can exert- and important mediating role.

    It seems to me that the SDLP still win support from thousands who are consciously moderate nationalists, middle class, economically centrist, constitutionally respectful, hold to the ideal of a shared future rather than separate but equal. Ths contrasts with SF a

  • Brian Walker

    … sorry… damn.. I hit the wrong key.. as a party that still sees itself as a revolutionary party, which has few ideas so far for democratic government.

    It’s true of course that people can see through SF’s rhetoric and welcome its many adjustments. And new generations have grown up who are not bothered by its history or actually sort of admire it.

    But I don’t see how that invalidates a party like the SDLP which stands for constituional and democractic behaviour, Parties have their ups and downs. The SDLP did not do at all badly in the less promising territory of first-past- the post. WIt’s hertigae

  • Brian Walker

    … my computer is having a heart attack..

    The SDLP’s heritage should not be thrown way lightly.

    (Phew – apologies to all readers for the interruptions)

  • TheHorse

    In other words Alias are you saying Dissident republicans are right then that the GFA, SAA, HA, are all British controlled conspiracies to delude the Nationalist electorate that change can occur through the political process. Change will happen and demographics will determine that path whether that takes 30, 50 or 100 years but it will happen and by that stage I dont think the British government will have much say in the matter for they will be having their own demographic wars going on in their own country as its only a matter of time before there is a civil war in Britain. What goes around comes around and Britain will eventually pay dearly for its colonial past, add in the continuing flood of European immigrants from former eastern block countries and the political and religious consequences for the British bulldog mentality. The future does not look good for Britain.

  • Comrade Stalin

    They most certainly had links with loyalist paramilitaries and the DUP folly in setting up UR, despite it’s severing of links within a year, was to say the least, extremely foolish.

    Gerry, this is absolute rubbish. Why are you trying to sanitize the relationship between unionist politicians and paramilitaries ? UR wasn’t foolish, the DUP and those who supported UR knew exactly what they were doing.

    Unionism is an instinctively militaristic and paramilitaristic political entity. You only have to look at the history before, and indeed after, the NI state was founded. What did they do as soon as they got their hands on power ? They created a special, unaccountable, political, paramilitary police force separate from the regularized policing system – and there are people still commemorating and dressing up in the regalia of that organization today.

    I mean look at it. People signing an oath in their own blood, drilling in the grounds of Belfast Castle, Vanguard and the “liquidation of the enemy” speech in front of goose-stepping columns, the various “strikes”, in particular the UWC strike, (with the language of trade unionism being hijacked to cover for what were, in fact, paramilitary putsches) and all the history of unionist politicians being photographed standing near to known senior paramilitary figures.

    Please stop pretending that unionism is some sort of frail, peace-loving, delicate naive little thing which seems to keep finding itself accidentally in the company of tough guys. It insults my intelligence.

  • Comrade Stalin

    STV fragments rather than builds single power blocs

    Can’t believe you’d say this, Mick. Especially given the glaring fact that FPTP has just delivered a very much fragmented House of Commons.

  • Comrade Stalin

    What’s strange is all the contributions appearing on Facebook, Slugger, Youtube and elsewhere on the internet all simultaneously coming from republicans going “look at the SDLP and their oath-taking”.

    It’s transparently obvious that Sinn Fein activists are all automatons who merely repeat what they are told to say by their leadership. Anything to take away from the fact that the IRA was humiliated in defeat and Sinn Fein has been forced to take part in the kind of partitionist assembly it was latterly founded to bring down.

  • CS,

    It’s no more fragmented than it usually is – it’s just that the relative proportions of the seats are trickier than usual. 95% of MPs are still members of the three main parties. Contrast this with the Assembly or Dáil Éireann in which five parties are required to meet the same percentage in each case.

  • PaddyReilly

    It is a universal rule of politics and religion that when you attempt to turn two entities into one, you inevitably end up with three, the unified body and the refuseniks from both sides. You can’t stop people standing for parliament and other office. So inevitably, what would happen after a hypothetical merger of SF and SDLP would be that Seamus McStoop would see an opportunity and stand for Stormont independently, and probably Pádraig McProvie the same.

    A movement to unify SF and the SDLP would probably be to SF’s advantage, in that SF would gain half the SDLP’s members/voters, but there is certainly a core of Catholic SF haters out there, the fruit of the bad karma of the Provisional IRA, and they would soldier on—for a while at least—I am informed that nobody under the age of 40 votes SDLP. Equally, we might find that the compromises needed to bring SF together with the SDLP would be unpalatable to many and they would defect to RSF.

    Nor are we told what the 26 County Members of SF are expected to do if the 6 County version goes out of existence.

    So the idea may be shelved as unworkable. But it might be of some use if the two parties agreed not to oppose each other at Westminster, but if we get Transferable Voting next year, even that co-operation would be unnecessary.

  • slug

    “……..round and Britain will eventually pay dearly for its colonial past, add in the continuing flood of European immigrants from former eastern block countries and the political and religious consequences for the British bulldog mentality. The future does not look good for Britain.”

    Naive stuff

  • Alias

    TheHorse, the “change” that is designed to happen is a progression of the change that has already happened, and Her Majesty’s intelligence service is now centrally located in NI to manage it.

    Just as the post-nationalists in NI were led to renounce their former right to national self-determination and to declare that they have no entitlement to live in an Irish nation-state, declaring instead that British sovereignty is legitimate and so to is their status as a non-sovereign nation, they also declared that this renunciation of national rights by them should also occur by the whole of the Irish nation which should then dismantle its nation-state and replace it with a replica of Northern Ireland wherein the British nation is to hold the same veto over the right of the Irish nation to determine its own affairs that it currently holds over the post-nationalists in that part of the UK.

    Unity, prior to the British-designed GFA, had the purpose of extending the right to national self-determination to NI. It now has the new purpose of removing it from Ireland, and imposing the British Veto. This veto, post unity, is to be internalised as the veto that a foreign nation has over the right of the Irish nation to determine its own affairs.

    Article 1 of Bunreacht na hÉireann declares that: “The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.”

    The GFA, in direct contrast, declares that there are two nations of “the island of Ireland” and not one. Nowhere in Article 1 does it declare that another nation has a right of veto over the Irish nation. If another nation to have that veto then the Irish nation would no longer have a right to self-determination.

    Since a nationalist is anyone who promotes his nation’s right to self-determination, with the nation-state being the means by which the right is exercised, those who promote the GFA are not Irish nationalists.

  • HeinzGuderian

    A Notion Once Again………………;o)))

  • Henry94

    A broader point is that political parties as we know them evolved for the TV age and party democracy was sacrificed to the needs of presentation.

    Thus the Ard Fheis/Conference became a rally for the cameras rather than a serious policy making assembly. The end of the TV age makes that model redundant and the opportunity is to transform politics with a mass-membership democratic party with a an on-line as well as a local aspect to participation.

    The stability of the voting blocks gives northern parties a great opportunity to move towards this new model early.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Andrew, I might have jumped the gun a bit. Usually the next sentence which comes after “STV fragments power blocs” is “FPTP delivers stable and strong governments” – which it demonstrably does not.

    The fallacy here which is implicit in the argument here is that 95% of the MPs are part of three coherent and entirely unified power blocs in Parliament. This isn’t true – it’s a sleight of hand made possible by the FPTP voting system. Is the Conservative Party of Ian Duncan Smith, John Redwood or Bill Cash the same as that of David Cameron and Michael Gove ? We’re already seeing cracks there. And who is going to try to claim that the Labour Party of Blair or Milliband (either one) is the same as that of Dennis Skinner ?

    There are in reality at least three Conservative Party blocs, and at least two Labour and Lib Dem blocs. FPTP encourages these differences to be brushed under the carpet, hidden behind closed doors, and corralled into place by the party whipping system. The idea that politics is unfragmented under STV is an illusion.

  • the blow – in

    Are we doomed to be dominated by tribal politics for ever?

    What about creating a social democratic party that can appeal to people of all religious/cultural backgrounds?

    Given clear leadership there are many people here who would like to see politics develop on the left/right european model. You can’t eat a flag, and even when you do wrap it round you, it doesn’t keep out the cold.

    Perhaps its time for the ‘left’ in all the current parties to abandon the tribalists and establish a new party committed to social justice and equality for all?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    One of the most disheartening features of Slugger over the past few weeks has been the fact that the Election looks as if it never happened.
    This is particuarly so in relation to SDLP and its increasingly shrill critics.
    As Mr Walker observes the SDLP is not in terminal decline (though God knows Margaret Ritchie wont help). In fact it did rather well.
    Yet we are told by SDLP critics with the same conviction that they put into the pre-election months that the SDLP is finished. Not so.
    Election? What Election?
    Without so much as a pause to consider the fact that they got it wrong the same shrill voices tell us the SDLP is finished.
    Of course it must be said the obituary of DUP, UUP and SF-IRA were also written before 6th may and their critics are almost as shrill.
    Fact is that with the understandable exception of ast Belfast…..nothing changed.
    In the big sectarian picture there are 44 nationalists/republicans in the Stormont Assembly and next year there will be anything from 42 to a staggering 45, depending as much on the peculiarity of the final quota as a real change.
    Within that nationalist/republican battle there will be some but little change as much to do with boundaries (in the North East ) and demographics (Strangford) and SDLP revival (West Tyrone).
    The key is that most nationalist/republican voters see the SDLP and SF as merely different nuances rather than different parties.
    I know that annoys SF-IRA and SDLP partisans but its a simple fact.

  • Clanky

    If the two major nationalist parties were to unite, even if the reason were not to simply outvote the unionists then the maths would still put pressure on the unionists to unite.

    A few people have mentioned that a SF/SDLP alliance would push nationist voters towards the alliance, but a UUP/DUP alliance would (IMHO) be less likely to push unionist voters towards alliance which would push the whole political spectrum towards unionism.

  • Henry94

    You can’t eat a flag

    Even a red one.

  • slug

    The unity arguments lead to :

    Unionist Party – linked to Conservatives
    Nationalist Party

    Alliance Party
    Labour Party – linked to UK Labour
    Green Party

    This is quite similar to the pre 1970 set up.

  • redhugh

    Aye sure it wouldn’t be the case that Irish youths are genuinely disgusted at seeing a so called nationalist politician pledege her self to lizzie and co.

  • KPB

    Which is exactly why no nationalist party would want it.

  • Thomas Mourne

    Why not go one step further and have one party for N. I. After all, the total vote in the General Election was 678,000 – not too far in front of the total vote for BNP. Then all we need is a Supreme Leader and once a year we will parade in homage to him [certainly not her] at Stormont. And we will vote for him every 4 or 5 years until he is replaced by his favourite son.

    Alternatively, wait patiently until the second half of 2016 and see the beginning of the end of SF as their main objective remains a pipe dream.

    As for the hard-line Unionists – look out for the great upheaval in 2012 as prophesied by Nostradamus, Saint Malachy, the Maya etc.

  • redhugh

    and here’s another