SDLP MI5 and taking the fight to Sinn Fein…

The SDLP are still alive – and they give the distinct impression that they see this as something of an achievement.

As continuing (relative) peace brings with it political consensus to both sides of the constitutional fence, the SDLP like the UUP are armed with new and rather uninspiring leaders as they continue to struggle to find a gap in the green and orange political markets.

For the UUP, with Tom (Elliott) the Orangeman in charge and with the Tory and DUP link-ups off the agenda perhaps the recent spat between the Orange Order and the DUP might offer a small window of opportunity – but it does rather look as if the new leader’s main ambition seems to already have been achieved – by him actually becoming leader.The DUP will be losing little sleep as the memory of Mrs Robinson’s exploits and the threats from the TUV-one-man-band both fade.

For the SDLP the new leader has not been pulling up any political trees and has been struggling a bit with the increased media exposure and an unimpressed public. Maggie, a little flustered and perhaps a little out of her depth desperately needs an issue as SF carry on, as ever, growing at her party’s expense. As a good Catholic girl, Maggie probably says a little prayer to St Anthony of an evening -the saint of choice for those unsure of which route to follow.

So what should she do next?

Well the last time the SDLP actually laid a glove on SF was when they argued that the British government’s position regarding On the Runs (OTRs) – as agreed with SF – was in fact a ruse to allow the British military, with blood on their hands, off the legal hook by effectively granting them an amnesty along with the OTRs.

We were then treated to the amusing spectacle of the SDLP lecturing SF on the evils of the British war machine and how the perfidious Englezes needed to be brought to book. A clearly embarrassed and outflanked SF duly capitulated and the British binned the bill.

Well perhaps there is another opportunity to discomfort SF sitting under everybody’s noses – the big (white) elephant sitting in the living room and in Palace Road in Lisburn.

Under the GFA/STA all the combatants have left the battlefield, no more RUC/UDA/UDR/UFF/IRA/UVF/INLA and the army only allowed out under the supervision of the revamped Ulster controlled PSNI. Well not quite, we still have Nationalists’ favourite bogey-people MI5 – who haven’t gone away – still operating (with 16% of their spend going on their activities in Northern Ireland).

SF, having negotiated the STA, which sets out the terms of their operation in Ulster and their relationship with the PSNI are understandably a bit coy on the subject.

The SF position, as best as can be worked out, is as follows – the dissers (dissidents) are criminals and should be dealt with by the police so there is therefore no need for MI5 to be in Ulster and to be employed against them. There is no need to support/help MI5 because MI5 don’t need to do anything and shouldnt be here.

We now have the interesting constitutional situation that the guys who get to (jointly) appoint the Justice minster and the Attorney General and are nominally in charge of Police and Justice don’t support those who are hiding in the bushes and claiming to be upholding the law.

The DUP of course, used to bang on about this before they were dragged screaming and kicking over the transfer of Police and Justice finishing line and are now tucked up snugly in bed with Republicans and have gone, rather quiet, you know. The seemingly just-happy-to-be-still-alive SDLP have done a bit of minor banging on about the topic and issued a statement after the recent dissident operation near Dundalk was foiled which perhpas heralds some fighting spirit.

The SDLP argue reasonably, that good Police work, with the support of the community is the way to defeat the dissers and perhaps Maggie may have found an issue to challenge SF on and an issue which SF seems to be decidely uncomfortable with.

The recent shenanigans in Derry back up this viewpoint with the activiities of the crypto-paramilitary MI5 arguably more counter prodcutive than counter insurgency and for anyone in any doubt of this check out what our friends at Erigi have to say.

So gwan Maggie, give it a lash, prove your critics wrong and take the fight to SF on their own turf – before its too late.

, , , , , ,

  • I’ll get to the rest in due course, but first thought:

    the SDLP like the UUP are armed with new and rather uninspiring leaders

    “Uninspiring”? Compared to whom, precisely?

  • Rory Carr

    Well not compared to the (UK) Labour Party obviously, Malcolm.

  • OK, I’m at the other end of that little lot; and still not hugely impressed.

    I mean: is the sum of of all that the Big Idea?

    At least I got a sniff of something in the Guardian magazine interview with Gordon Brown:

    “I was unable to persuade people that my economic policy for the future was the right one. People will judge by what happens over the next few years whether I was right. I am not going to be dogmatic but the policies I am proposing are far more comprehensive than those being pursued at the moment. He foresees problems in keeping down unemployment, “and what is the purpose of economic policy if not to make sure that people have jobs?
    Brown has sympathy for the students protesting against the government’s decision to raise fees and cut maintenance allowances. “Of course I understand why they are doing it”, he says. “Educational opportunity is the key to the future …

    [My emphases.]

    Now the other two Assemblies have not only come out with warm words, they have made some real commitments to ensure that ConDem damage to their employment bases, their education provision is at least minimized.

    And those visionaries of NI haven’t got beyond P&J? Well, blow me …

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Neither Maggie or Tommy indicate they have the personal drive, ability or charisma to do other than manage the steady decline of their parties – they compare unfavourably to their main rivals, Adams and Roninson within their own tribal camps.


    Eddie is getting a bit of kicking from the press – I think a bit unfairly – but imagine the carnage if Maggie or Tommy were in the firing line for PMQ.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jesus. I’d rather stick forks in my eyeballs rather than read that desperately badly structured and incoherent waffle again.

  • 6crealist

    It’s always “dissers”, “Grizzly”, “Maggie”, “sirpatrickmayhem” with you, isn’t it? Learn to talk properly.

    In any case, a semblance of evidence to support your assertions would be most welcome.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit @ 5:59 pm:

    My previous were not sniping at you. You were doing what you could with the raw material given you: bricks without straw, perhaps. Despite the name-dropping of the third and fourth paragraphs here, unlike Rory, my main concern is not an ad hominem gybe; it is the need for a cogent electoral “story” and the ability to sell it.

    I suggest, there is a difference between the positions of the various parties and their “leaders” (for want of a better word) in the four Assemblies/parliaments.

    In three of them there are elections imminent. Now, my subjective impression is that in Scotland and Wales there are credible leaders and policies being crystalised. The amazing self-basting Alex Salmond and Iain Grey (the latter after a slowish start) are credible alternatives: even the much-criticised Annabel Goldie has an impressive “Jean Brodie” clout to her. Scotland will be a fight to the death.

    Carwyn Jones has an enviable support (the recent BBC/ICM gave him a 53/14% margin of positive approval) and goes into the Assembly election with 44% support and a united party. Similarly, only a fool would underestimate the Plaid’s team (most party image-makers would do a Dr Faustus for a face like Director of Policy Nerys Evans).

    By contrast, in NI, we have aching vacuums.

  • pippakin

    If I were the SDLP I would be worried at the prospect of SF sniping at them from the comfort of equally strong positions both sides of the border. And I’m afraid all the SDLP can do, at least for now, is grin and bear it.

  • wild turkey

    pip and others

    whatever became of the once floated fianna failed SDLP link-up/buy-out option?

    poor balance sheets on both sides?

  • Super Stooper


    Do you really think SF is going to do well in the South?

    Then I bet you are either (a) a SF fanboi or (b) one of the those “liberal” unionists who has never actually been south of Newry for fear the priests and the Fenians will sell you into white slavery.

    SF will make a gain or two as the World That Dev Made collapses, but in Dublin, where it counts, they will be going nowhere.

    As for the substance of the article: for the SDLP to survive is to succeed. The new world that is struggling to be born down south will mean that everything is changed, changed utterly by February.

    I am not sure that means it will be bright confident morning for the SDLP but they will be better placed to ride the wave than SF ever will be.

  • pippakin


    Well if you think the SDLP still have ambitions in that direction… actually I think the SDLP saw the writing on the wall a while ago.

  • Driftwood

    the big (white) elephant sitting in the living room and in Palace Road in Lisburn.


    Do you mean Palace Barracks in Holywood, or Thiepval barracks (Army HQ) in Lisburn? Its on the Antrim Road there.

    MI5 is formally based at the former (along with the Scots Guards).

    Confused, but then I’m not too sure what the point of the thread is.
    Regarding the SDLP, Margaret isn’t going to jeopardise the hundreds of MoD jobs here, including in her own fiefdom- Ballykinler Camp- so apart from throwing mud at her and Tom, what, precisely, are you writing about?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “By contrast, in NI, we have aching vacuums.”

    It is not clear at what point Ulster should be judged sufficiently peaceful/settled to expect ‘normal’ politics but I don’t think we have arrived there yet. Do you?

    You could argue that the troubles/peace process is the comfort blanket that the over-indulged local Ulster politicians cling to but I think it only fair to remember than Ulster has a recent violent past that history has a habit of repeating and there is therefore no real concept of opposition – apart from constitutional opposition.
    Comparisons, therefore, between Stormo and the Scottish and Welsh assemblies don’t really hold.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “MI5 is formally based at the former (along with the Scots Guards).”

    Quite right, it should have read Palace Barracks in Holywood.

    The SDLP have suggested that MI5 should not be involved in the fight against the dissers and it should be left to the PSNI – I am suggesting this is a good issue for them to run with.


    “And I’m afraid all the SDLP can do, at least for now, is grin and bear it.”

    The SDLP are in slow steady decline – grinning and bearing it hasnt done them much good to date.

  • pippakin


    If you can think of something more productive I’m sure the SDLP would be grateful.

  • pippakin

    Super Stooper

    1) I’m in Mayo

    2) I support Labour

    3) I don’t care what the priests do as long as its between consenting adults and does NOT involve children.

    Seriously I think SF will greatly improve their position in the south. Its not like its hard they only have two seats at the moment.

  • john

    Going on the polls in the south a link up with the Irish labour party may be an option for the future

  • Greenflag

    Labour’s Gilmore seems to have ruled out any coalition with SF so that means he’ll have to toe the FG line and or vice versa with maybe the remnant of Greens shoring them up in the event of the outcome being close. We’ve never had an election with 4 parties in the 13 to 32% range and how that will work out in some of the larger constituencies is beyond the grasp of even the best tallymen . A water shed election ahead and the baby may end up going the way of the bathwater .

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The obituary of SDLP has been written a few times and it appears in good health.
    As does the DUP (written off a few months ago) and SF (written off six nights a week on Slugger with an extra matinée performance on Saturdays).
    The AP rarely gets on the radar but is actually undergoing a mini revival.
    The UUP well………make your own judgement.

    There is actually a five party spectrum ….make that seven if you consider the TUV and dissident nihilists as “parties”.
    Ans there are rivalries and enemies.
    In this context Sinn Féin is a rival of SDLP and the dissident no marks.
    In this context SDLP is a rival of SF and the Alliance Party.

    But make no mistake that unionism is the enemy of both (neither of course would admit that).
    Margaret Ritchies speech at SDLP conference was actually (to me anyway) surprisingly well delivered. Shr did all the knockabout stuff very well and basically ignored the unionists.
    Got a few digs in at APs holier than thou attitude.
    And of course several digs at SF.
    Both went down well.
    I would imagine out in the local councils SF and SDLP are at daggers drwan. But thats members and activists and doesnt really reflect mainstream nationalist voters who Id claim dont see much difference in real terms (eg South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone).
    Whether SDLP and SF activists would actually give each other second preferences in large scale is irrelevant. Most of their actual voters will do so.

    SDLP……and the thread is about SDLP…..can win or lose votes to SF or Alliance Party. Thats the battleground…or two battlegrounds east and west of the Bann.
    In crude electoral analysis SDLP is unlikely to lose a seat west of the Bann. More likely gain one in West Tyrone.
    They “could” lose two in North and South Antrim. Losing two would be unlucky.
    On the other hand East Antrim and/or Strangford “could” seea SDLP seat.
    So they “could” drop to 15 or go to 19.
    And they themselves look optimistically at South Down.
    Now I dont particuarly want to indulge in “no way Strangford” or “no way North Antrim”.
    The point of agreement surely is that it “could” be 15 and up to 19 (based on todays analysis of something not due for six months.
    This means that there will be a degree of targetting by SDLP strategists in Antrim and Strangford. And the strategy has to be different.
    In North Antrim, SF is comfortably ahead of SDLP and boundary changes make the seat vulnerable. But AP has no presence.
    In South Antrim, SF is ahead but AP has a presence thru El Beardo…which means he has to be attacked at every opportunity.
    In East Antrim SDLP and SF are effectively on same vote share with SDLP more likely to gain on transfers. AP does have a presence but Neeson is retiring and their first choice candidate Gerry Lynch performed very badly……so he wont be there in 2011. “Left by mutual agreement etc”
    The combined nationalist vote being more than Lynch.
    But in Strangford SDLP has double the SF vote and again the combined vote beats AP. All down to transfers there.

    At six months distance, the analysis would be SDLP (and combined with Westminster vote) stays in same place. But there are grounds for optimism for SDLP in candidate selection. The decision of Mr Adams to seek pastures new has led to the bizarre back to the future choice of Pat Sheehan……can SF really move beyond 1981.?

    SDLP tactics are interesting.
    The Poppy Thing. I am not a big fan. Id never wear one but I cant honestly think that enough nationalists/republicans voting SF would be turned off ENOUGH to vote SF. I am not particuarly sure it makes the party less appealing to unionists.
    Likewise Ms Ritchie states she is not afraid to use the words “Northern Ireland” Neither am I (although in some places I might think twice) but Hell will freeze over before I use the words.
    But perhaps the best tactic available to SDLP is “civic society” (unions, human rights activists and campaigners). I assume from “alaninbelfast” that there were more stalls at the SDLPs Rameda Conference than todays UUP……which (and civic society activists will deny this) makes SDLP more user friendly to them.
    Whether SDLP gets any benefit will reflect more on campaigners ingratitude than the SDLP

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “Going on the polls in the south a link up with the Irish labour party may be an option for the future”

    That could put the SDLP in power on both sides of the border.

  • pippakin

    I thought an alliance between Labour and the SDLP had been mooted some time ago, nothing seems to have come of it.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    South Down will very interesting, because although the SDLP are miles ahead when it comes to the Westminsters (with perhaps some cross community voting) SF were within a half percent of them in the last Stormo elections and not good for Maggie if SF nose ahead.

    In their other stronghold, Foyle, SF seem to have run out of steam.

  • slug

    Who is the SF big vote-getter in South Down?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I take your point re South Down.
    The UUP vote has been declining there for a while. If the UUP seat is vulnerable, the most likely beneficiary is SDLP.

    But the 2007 Assembly result there was a major surprise as South Down is usually moderate nationalist territory. But just three years later and SDLP hammer SF here.
    Cross community voting does not explain SF losing 3% of their vote.
    Clearly Ms Ritchie, local girl made good…did well.
    And performed well against Caitriona Ruane who in 2007 seemed destined to be a SF star but rightly or wrongly is deemed a liability.
    On 2010 figures SDLP would take McCallisters seat and clearly Ms Ritchies outreach will play well in picking up moderate transfers from Greens/AP etc.
    Enough? I doubt but SDLP seem confident based on the fact that unionist voters did not “need” to vote for her to keep out Ruane and might therefore have voted for her in her own right.
    I am not so sure. In safe nationalist seats, theres no incentive for a unionist to bother to vote in FPTP elections, so I think McCallisters real appeal is understated.
    In much the same way and for the same reason that SDLP strength is understated in safe unionist seats like Strangford and the three Antrim constituencies.

  • Munsterview

    “…..whatever became of the once floated fianna failed SDLP link-up/buy-out option?…..”

    wild t. Oh FIanna Failure lost the run of themselves on that one, they decided that they needed neither the the SDLP or the Shinners. They have go alone and have been quietly getting a GAA chairman here, a Comhtals sec. there and ex-republicans anywhere they can. The project was going quite well and SF seemed to be a bit complacent about it all.

    Then along came Anglo and put a stop to their gallop ! Well slowed it down to a trot and then a walk. From what I hear the horse has now stopped and laid down. FF did not exactly go after patriots, they went after the ‘ you scratch my back, we’el scratch yours’ variety. Not surprisingly those approached in recent times have been saying “thanks but not just now, could you get back to me on that” sort of thing.

    FF are still in the Six Counties and in mid-Ulster in particular….. they have not gone away you know!

  • Munsterview


    “….. Its not like its hard they only have two seats at the moment……”

    Dear Oh Dear, been at the Elderberry wine again have we ? Two seats ? Give the SF site a google sometime !

  • wj

    “The decision of Mr Adams to seek pastures new has led to the bizarre back to the future choice of Pat Sheehan……can SF really move beyond 1981.?”

    I;ve seem Pat Sheehan described as a ‘self-employed businessman’ – doing what exactly? Anyone care to illuminate

  • Munsterview

    Pat sheehan may be around since the Hunger Strikes but he is still in his early fifties, fifty two or three if memory serves me right. The fact that he did a hunger strike for around fifty days also shows that he is a strong willed determined individual.

    Pat has an honors degree in philosophy and in politics, how many of his Unionist detractors can say that ? How many on the Unionist side have any degrees or qualifications of any sort never mind specific degrees in politics ? I would have thought that given all the despair with mediocre politicians, that the entry of a well qualified individual would be welcomed ?

    No worries as our Aussie friends would say, Gerry’s former seat is in safe Republican hands and the people of West Belfast will be well served by Pat Sheehan.

  • pippakin


    I got it wrong! I wasn’t paying to attention to my typing. Anyway, its not my fault SF are practically invisible in the south!

    I should have previewed the comment, there is now a preview facility so I’ve no excuse. Sorry.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Re. “Pat sheehan”.

    It is a little suprising, if as is suggested, he is noth able and has the preferred SF track record of prison plus hunger strike that he hasnt emerged before now?

    Regarding the politics of MI5 do you not agree that SF are in somewhat of a difficult position?

  • slug

    Margaret Ritchie’s stature has grown a lot in Northern Ireland. She is now a much better speaker – and more at ease in front of the cameras. Her appearances on the big-profile TV interviews are now indicatives of a performance up there with the best of the SDLP leadership. She delivered well for the party securing 3 MPs in the recent Westminster election. She has been firm with dissenters. She has stood up to SF on the “naionalist unity” issues. She has handled candidate selection well so far. She seems to be careful yet decisive. She is SDLP through and through. The Assembly elections will be very interesting indeed for her leadership. Any gains and she has steadied the SDLP ship once and for all.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “She has stood up to SF on the “naionalist unity” issues.”

    It is not clear how much of the potential SDLP vote might move across to the Alliance party if she sounds too green so she has to be careful. As a supporter of SF myself, you might suggest that it is wishful thinking/self serving to suggest that the Westminsters(in which the SDLP did well) and SF seemed to stall, generally is more suited to the SDLP (where SF dont take their seats) than the arguably far more important Assembly elections in which SF manage to mobilise their vote better.

    That is why,as you suggest her leadership will need to be judged against those results. If SF fail to make ground in the SDLP strongholds of South Down and Foyle(as indicated above) then perhaps as you suggest the ship may be steadied “if not once and for all” then for the next few elections.

  • Forgive me if I’m not seeing the point (especially the ir/relevance of MI5) here.

    Accept it, too, that I would hope the SDLP has a significant stake in future political developments.

    Those throat-clearings apart, I am musing elsewhere that “events, dear boy” are about to intrude. Allow me, then, to break my usual habit, and enter a world of “ifs”.

    Consider, for a moment, the recent Red-C poll in the Republic: Labour on 24%, SF on 16% and the independents on 11%. Together that’s a 51% plurality: the Political Studies Association of Ireland reckons it gives 48 Labour TDs, 24 Shinners, and 15 independents. Do the math, and remember it takes just 83 votes to elect a Taoiseach and form a government (and independents don’t vote for the uncertainty of fresh elections any more than turkeys vote for Christmas). Those independents will include Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party and Richard Boyd Barrett of “People Before Profit”, along with other lefties. At a quick glance, it might seem that the 1970 split had been electorally superglued. Apart from having a left-leaning administration for the first time in this island, a further attraction of that little outcome, whatever its inherent instabilities, is the long-overdue terminus-ad-quem to the fall-out of the Treaty (which, of itself, provides challenges to NI).

    Above all, with that level of representation, Sinn Féin are no longer outcasts, beyond the Pale, below the salt. SF ministers could be attending EU and other meetings-and-greetings, and being photographed doing so. Suddenly it becomes more difficult for the Brits and DUPpers to put noses into the air and look away.

    Were the next Dublin administration to have anything like that complexion, the SDLP could look past history, marooned, high-and-dry. The SDLP could be dependent more on what happens in the defenestration of Brian Cowen (whose ambition, we hear, is to stay in office to make a St Patrick’s Day speech) than the 5th May Assembly poll.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I will come back to our friends in MI5 later.

    “Suddenly it becomes more difficult for the Brits and DUPpers to put noses into the air and look away.”

    The looking away has een done by the Irish government and southern parties rather than by the peffidious Englezes and nasty Unionists – in fact it is a (reasonable) gripe by Unionsts that they have to share power (forced on them by the Englezes) with the insurgents whilst down South John Taylor’s trusty old 40 barge pole is employed when it comes to SF in government.

    Even the Labour Party dont want an a former insurgent about the place even though there own leader has a crpyto -parmailitarty link.

    In relation to the on going pointless saga of the civil war being played out over decades by Feckless Fail and Feckless Gael it would be a welcome development that we were able to move on to sometihng more sensbile to be deciding the future of the country over.

    But however appealing a reallingmnet of Irish politics I suspect, to indulge in a bit of futuring myself, the polls will not be borne out on the day in question and FG/Labour will assume power although not as comfortably as they might like.

  • MichaelMac

    Super Stooper

    ”””’SF will make a gain or two as the World That Dev Made collapses, but in Dublin, where it counts, they will be going nowhere.””””

    You really do need to open your mind and look at what is happening in the real world away from planet stoop.

    There is a tangible, almost historic shift of public opinion in the South. SF are going to benefit from it in quite a number of areas.

    ””””’As for the substance of the article: for the SDLP to survive is to succeed. The new world that is struggling to be born down south will mean that everything is changed, changed utterly by February.

    I am not sure that means it will be bright confident morning for the SDLP but they will be better placed to ride the wave than SF ever will be.”””’

    I’m afraid that is simply delusional.

  • Munsterview


    good post at @1.20 p.m.. Yourself and Fitz are among the best of those that seem to be getting a handle on this and looking at things objectively.

    So far I have resisted going into the attic, breaking open boxes and going elbow deep into constituencies and trends, I do not want to interfere with my other current research, so to an extent I am more of an observer than a participant in all of this. However I am not detached, I sat out the last two elections but for this one the sleeves will be rolled up and I will be back in there for SF again.

    There are two contributions here, the figures and projections that thankfully are no longer the sole prerogative of the back-room boys, they are now out there for all to see and there are some good political anoraks that know how to use them. The figures aspect is well catered for.

    What I can do and what I hope I have been doing is adding the ‘third dimension’ to these figures by conveying something of the feel and the ethos of how these things look at grassroots level in the South and especially in the non Urban aspects of it, from my own forty odd years of experience.

    I remember an early seventies Sinn Fein, Ard Comhairle meeting where a regional delegate produced a fag box, slid it open and gave his report from a few figures scribbled on the back. SF sure has come a long way with managing constituencies and elections !

    Incidently it was a FG back-room boy that took me in hand and taught me the craft all those years ago, he was into politics per se and recognized a kindred spirit at the count. In another count centre, we also stole a march by turning up with a laptop for the first time at that count centre. Very quickly our corner was where the action was for the room and all parties were giving us the tally information, as SF were able to do the instant analysis on the tallys.

    Last week in Donegall I got a look at the computer and Boy did it warm the heart in a cold day. Pat Doherty’s brother who was manning it was a long way from his prison cell or our embrace in Dublin when he came to sell the peace process, at the special meeting. Here he had everything at his finger tips and like his brother Pat a calm solid man to have in the eye of the storm.

    Of more interest to me were the few twenty somethings that could also discuss percentages, trends and voting patterns of areas with me as well as the knowledgable Dothery gentleman could. SF now have the electroal skills, they have the feet on the ground and they have young energy added to wisdom of the Old Guard. If this is the time, Sinn Fein is ready for it!

    RTE are currently running an all Ireland talent contest. The country is divided into North, South, East and West. Then there is ‘The Pale’ The greater Dublin area. Each of these five areas have their own distinct ethos. It would be helpful to bear that model in mind when considering political figures as it but takes cognizance of actual society boundaries and mindsets in the South that will be reflected in the polls.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thank you for that comment Munsterview. But I am basing my analysis as much on my gut feeling as actual figures.

    I think that there are actually two types of analyst that I have come accross over a very long time.
    The first…and I wont name names (its a general point rather than specific to South Down or anything said earlier)……seems overly (to me) reliant on the data….so they tend to say that the exact figures for (say) Mid Ulster if replicated in May 2011 will produce this result.

    I perhaps (to that kind of analyst) am overly reliant on gut feeling.
    Most of the better analysts of both kinds usually agree and get it right.
    Very little is really contentious.And both types are subject to some truly awful lapses that will haunt us to the grave (I mean YOU Doctor Deeny).
    Getting that balance right between strict observance of stats and a political feeling and (worse) what I want to see is always difficult.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    re. The relevance of MI5

    This is a sensitive issue for SF and the SDLP need, if they are to avoid continuing slow sad decline, to take the fight to SF on issues such as this where they can score points with the Nationalist electorate.

  • james

    “Well the last time the SDLP actually laid a glove on SF was when they argued that the British government’s position regarding On the Runs (OTRs) – as agreed with SF – was in fact a ruse to allow the British military, with blood on their hands, off the legal hook by effectively granting them an amnesty along with the OTRs.”

    Yes well done the SDLP what with all those trials of British soldiers and RUC officers we’ve had (not) meanwhile the OTRs are still in limbo – well apart from the ones where side deals have been done, including one by er Mr Mallon (wtf???)

    The SDLP are between a rock and a hardplace in several areas relying on unionist votes while proclaiming Irish Unity to nationalists elsewhere, cracking up in the commons talking about bloody sunday and wearing poppies.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “Yes well done the SDLP what with all those trials of British soldiers and RUC officers we’ve had (not) meanwhile the OTRs are still in limbo – well apart from the ones where side deals have been done, including one by er Mr Mallon (wtf???)”

    Agreed – the SDLP’s action didnt resolve this issue but that does not mean that SF didnt get it wrong in the first place as evidenced by them dropping it.

    Equally with the MI5 issue, this is hardly an outcome that Nationalists welcome and also provides another (failry rare) opportunity for the SDLP.

  • Munsterview


    what the SDLP was during this from 69 to the GFA is one thing, what the SDLP have been since is another. Increasingly they seem a party in search of a purpose !

    My overriding impression of the last SDLP conference is that they defined themselves more by what they were against, and that in the main was Sinn Fein, rather than what they stood for.

    I have not done a review of the two leaders speeches, some anorak out there may do so, but it seems to me from media coverage that the Lovely Lady spend more time knocking Sinn Fein in her Leader speech to the SDLP, than Farmer Tom did on his Leaders speech to the UUP.

    If this is so then the current SPLP leadership is a reactive rather than a proactive party !

    From my own observations and exchanges with people there, what I notice of ordinary SDLP members discussions is that they are far more interested in discussing what SF are up to with me and where it is going rather than the future and framework of their own party.

    I am out of step with SF policy on this but personally I would like to see both the SDLP and the UUP function as viable parties for the intermediate future as both are necessary to give the fullest possible to expression to representative democracy. Certain votes for a decade to come or more, will not transfer form both voting constituencies to either SF or DUP. Without these parties, or similar, this segment of the public will not have a voice.

    Goodness knows where Tom and his Back-To-The-Future UUP are going, I had a gleeful call from a Mid-Ulster Republican supporter the day after his election, that stated that they were ” now marching to oblivion up their own ……”! He was predicting that ‘the thinking rats would start jumping the sinking UUP ship immediately, leaving behind the ‘politically challenged’

    John EB has made the case for Liberal / Right swings inside the party. Interesting, I try to keep an open mind on it but…..

    John Lund’s experience do not auger well as far as party membership criticism of the Great Leader go! Going on both party leaders speeches there was not too much of the ‘vision thing’ in either. The UUP should look to what happened to Southern Unionism and the SDLP to what happened to the Old Nationalist Party. There is still time to turn both ships around from the rocks of oblivion where they are now headed!

  • james

    Sammy, SF dropped it because most of the OTRs were dealt with in two ways, the PSNI said who they weren’t interested in (a story in the media at the time was the large number who didn’t know if they were wanted or not) and little agreements to let others return, so all in all pretty much done behind doors.

    Regarding MI5, the SDLP need to be careful, SF claim the movement is now in a “Political Phase” therefore the only think MI5 can findout is that SF want a united Ireland, it reminds me off MI5 & and the police infiltrating unions in the 70’s, Trade Union officials were advised to use them as much as possible as the agents always volunteered for work to keep there cover.

    Should the RM ever return to violence I’m sure MI5 will come back on the radar.

    Its all just too much tilting at windmills by the SDLP, and I don’t think nationalists fall for it, today people vote for the SDLP because they won’t vote SF. The SDLP just need to find a narrative and a purpose and ignore SF and get on with it.

    Don’t think wearing poppies work, or confused republicans like Conall wotsisname, maybe try to be a youth party and they can grow with unionist,nationalist and the ‘dunno’ teenies by stealing the AP cloak OR become a business friendly party, I can’t think of anything else they seem to have rebutted all friendships from the South

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I was actually at the SDLP Conference.
    In the context of a Party Conference, the Leaders speech is usually the same format…..some massaging of party members egos, and it is after all a speech to party members as well as a wider audience outside the hall.
    But certainly she landed some punches. The SDLP victories at Westminster……without SF trade off was a boost.
    And my impression was that she largely ignored unionism (there is no vote in it after all) but was scathing about SF and Alliance.
    It was of course the first shots being fired for the next election……but its natural that she should turn her fire on SF (the SDLP is fighting them east and west of the Bann) and AP (who are being fought east of the Bann).

    Party members are of course very different from voters. There is certainly no love lost between SDLP and SF activists but frankly thats not the position on the ground. There is no real difference in the profile of a SDLP voter in Foyle than a SF voter in West Tyrone…….its as much about habit than anything.

    There will like last time be a range of 42-45 seats available to nationalists/republicans in May. It wuld be a tragedy if either SDLP or SF got 40 seats. The nationalist/republican voters need an alternative and in a sense they are providing the checks and balances on giving (as they see it) too much power to one party.
    In my view the present arrangement of 28 (I include McHugh) to 16 is too heavily weighted in favour of SF and they have not used that excess power wisely and I have a gut feeling that within nationalism/republicanism thats a growing feeling.
    May might be too soon for SDLP to get the benefit of that. But its coming. Certainly a more balanced nationalist/republican Executive (say 2:2) would be a good thing.
    SDLP strategists should be working on that.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “the Lovely Lady spend more time knocking Sinn Fein in her Leader speech to the SDLP, than Farmer Tom did on his Leaders speech to the UUP.”

    Yes and of course that is becuase they are competing for the same slice of the electoral market. SF have stolen most of the lovely lady’s (party) clothes and have now rather grown into the SDLP GFA(ex Sunningdale) dress. Poor Maggie simply doesnt know what to put on.

    But a Republican like youself, cant be happy that MI5 are still on the scene fighting what SF (publically) regard as common criminals? This is an issue that SF seem to wish would just go away and arguably an issue for Maggie herself to have go with?


    re. “Should the RM ever return to violence I’m sure MI5 will come back on the radar.

    MI5 are currently recruiting and running agents in Republican areas and operating independnetly of the PSNI and that is after Police and Justice has beeen transferred to Ulster. Anyone with a running knowledge of Irish history/politics will know that is both a godsend for the current insurgents (the dissers) in propanganda terms and an embarassment to SF. With SF not choosing to give this issue any priority then it is surely an opportunity for SDLP?

  • sir. clive woodward

    Have MI5 got the support of Deputy First Minister in the hunt for the killers of Ronan Kerr?

  • Alf

    Sir Clive,

    Has the Deputy First Minister got the support of MI5?

    Or MI6?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Alf, sir. clive,

    This is indeed an awkward subject for SF and one which as mentioned above the DUP are understandably slow to try and exploit and is clearly an opportunity for the SDLP.

    It is also affords an opportunity for the UUP to embarass the DUP given they signed up to the transfer of Police when SF clearly did not buy into the local security arrangements.

  • joeCanuck

    I have no sense that the general public give two sh*its about MI5. Of course, I am a long way away so i’m relying on tele talks and my bi-annual visits. Never heard MI5 mentioned even among the SF supporters I am friendly with.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    “Never heard MI5 mentioned even among the SF supporters I am friendly with.”

    That is understandable that they dont mention it – are you honestly telling me you think that British spooks hiding in the bushes is not an issue to Republicans?

    If something went badly e.g. they shot someone, or got shot themselves I can’t imagine SFs attitude would be anything like it would be if there was police involvement and of course it would be an absolute field day for the dissers.

  • joeCanuck


    I have to start from a null point. That is, if SF supporters don’t mention it to me, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s not particularly important. On the other hand, you start with extreme wild imaginings. There are no OO agents by the way and most of the rest of them are clerk types etc and don’t carry guns.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    “you start with extreme wild imaginings”

    So we have 2 armed groups both intent on catching/damaging/killing each other and you think it is unlikley that someone will get shot?