Margaret Ritchie is offering real leadership


 While one nationalist leader may be fading out from the northern scene, another is exhibiting real poise and growing self confidence. This image and this underrated leader’s speech deserve an imaginative, constructive and magnanimous response.

 SDLP Progressive nationalism is more confident, more optimistic, and more ready to engage wholeheartedly across the divide. We are not afraid to say ‘Northern Ireland’ or to encounter a member of the British Royal family at a function. How ridiculous was it for Martin McGuinness to refuse to go to a function celebrating the grand slam success of our all-island Rugby team – because the Queen was also in attendance! I was happy to go and congratulate our team and I had a very pleasant chat with the Queen. Honestly she’s not the least bit threatening. Well I didn’t think so.

Just as progressive nationalists can accept where we are today, so also can we accept the realities of our history while others keep attempting to rewrite it. We therefore do not feel the need to airbrush out of history the sacrifice of many thousands of Irish Nationalists who fought in the two world wars. We accept the realities of our journey and we want to improve on the past.

I know also that some people in our Party have reservations about some of the language we use around a ‘Shared Future’. Its not that they don’t believe in reconciliation and the two traditions building a better future in the North together – its that they are worried, well,… that its sounds a bit alliancey….

Indeed one particular commentator – himself stuck in the past – remarked that the SDLP’s response to Sinn Fein moving on to SDLP ground was to jump onto Alliance Party ground. Utter Utter Rubbish.