Destiny’s child

Margaret Ritchie SDLP leadership campaign promotional poster - with the ink running in the Newcastle rain I’d hazard a guess the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie impact on the southern electorate’s consciousness is somewhere just above that of Tom Elliott and a fair way below Peter Robinson’s. Despite that and declaring “she had no wish to interfere” in the forthcoming election there she has done exactly that with an attempt to damage Sinn Féin’s vote (no mention of Fianna Fail and their destruction of the economy?):

We in the SDLP want good relations with the three main parties, and we would not be telling anybody how they should vote in this particular election

But what I would say to them is they will not gain any further comfort, or they will not gain any further, shall we say, legs up the ladder, if they are going to be voting for sectarian politics and the politics of division through Sinn Fein.

Sinn Féin were not impressed:

This is more sour grapes from Margaret Ritchie, whose party has been eclipsed by Sinn Féin.

Though as her party has long gained support from the south, it seems only fair she does her bit for them:

At every single election, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the PDs (Progressive Democrats) and the Labour Party have all come and campaigned on behalf of the SDLP

As even the CPI noted a number of years ago

The left in the Dáil has not broken free of 1980s-style anti-republicanism. The mass media have reverted also to an anti-republican position of witch-hunts and demonising.

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  • Chris Donnelly

    Ritchie is utterly clueless.

    She declares the SDLP’s Number One priority to be a united Ireland and now seeks to highlight through her intervention the fact that only Sinn Fein bother to organise across Ireland in pursuit of that shared objective.

    Her words should be welcomed by republicans.

    Perhaps we’ll be treated to SDLP canvassers making a southern trek to canvass for Anybody But Sinn Fein….

  • john

    Point 1 – She should be staying focused on elections involving the SDLP and concentrating on steadying the ship North of the border, trying to promote her own party and not making cheap digs at others.

    Point 2 – I dont think any of the parties in the Republic will pay much attention to what she says anyway.
    As for telling the people in the South who to vote for, well one week it will be Labour next week it will be FF the next week it will be someone else – make up your mind so that in the future the SDLP can get involved on an all-Ireland level but until that decision is made then she should shut up

  • MichaelMac

    Even if you apply the partitionist thinking of the town councillor, how are these sectarian politics and politics of division manifesting themselves in the 26 counties?

  • alan56

    I suppose we should not be surprised that MR is getting her ‘spake’ in south of the border and of course she is perfectly entitled to give her views. Her concern is SF doing well in the south and creating a roll for them in the elections here. Nobody would believe her if she said otherwise so… no surprise.

  • 241934 john brennan

    In her recent successful Westminster election campaign, Margaret Ritchie very publically prioritised economic prosperity, a reconciled society, with ‘a shared future’ in the North – as the next and only, logical step to an Agreed, repeat Agreed Ireland – A destination that can be arrived at only by following the SDLP’s consistent pathway – and will require significant Protestant/unionist support in the North. For this sane approach SF, always a supporter of violence and deeper division, attacks the SDLP.
    SF also attacked the combined unionist parties for organizing a sectarian electoral pact in Fermanagh – then viciously attacked Ms Ritchie for declining Gerry Adams’ offer of a similar sectarian pact with Sinn Fein- an offer made the same day that SF and DUP combined to vote against an SDLP member getting the post of Justice minister in the North. (Note; under the GFA arrangements the post should rightfully have gone to an SDLP nominee – so SF in effect agreed the old unionist pre-condition: “No nationalist need apply”)
    How is the SDLP to gloss over Sinn Fein’s contradictory positions North and South, e.g. protesting on Dublin streets against budget cuts that it supports in the North. At least Margaret Richie puts her money where her mouth is – not only speaking against budget cuts and increases in student fees etc – but also consistently voting against. SF publicly opposes cuts, but abstains from voting in the British parliament, while in Stormont votes with the DUP in favour of cuts.

  • john

    John Brennan – some valid points but as already pointed out what annoys me is she feels she has to tell voters in the Republic who to vote for when in reality it is nothing to do with her. I want the SDLP to form an official partnership with a party in the South so that the SDLP can then challenge Sinn Fein on an all Ireland basis (this strategy would result in an increase in votes for the SDLP) but as pointed out earlier as long as the SDLP dont do this they can be looked at as a partitionist party. Now the reason why Ritchie doesnt do this is because she doesnt know who to form a coalition with. The Irish Labour party is the obvious choice but the reality is that in the North a large number of the SDLP voters are more christain democrat/right of centre so any partnership with the Labour party may create an opening for FF an FG to come North and ultimately take votes from the SDLP. So Ritchie should either make the bold move and form an official partnership with a Southern party giving her a right to an opinion in the Republics affairs or continue to go it alone in the North as a regional party but with little influence in Britain or Ireland as a whole.

  • The Word


    “I want the SDLP to form an official partnership with a party in the South so that the SDLP can then challenge Sinn Fein on an all Ireland basis ”

    Some people might argue that this latest Dail election will be extremely difficult for Sinn Fein because of the All-Ireland dimensions of their party. Inconsistencies will be noted.

    “a large number of the SDLP voters are more christain democrat/right of centre”

    An even larger number of Sinn Fein voters in rural Catholic conservative areas of the North, and you’ll find in the South too, see policies through the lens of the Catholic Church.

    To call them right of centre is just patent nonsense. The positioning of politics in the Nationalist North and the Republic is centre left for a reason, that that is where the vast majority of the people are.

  • john

    “To call them right of centre is just patent nonsense”
    If we remove the British/Irish question from our politics do you really believe the vast majority of catholics are centre left?
    You only have to look at the Irish in mainland Britain who seem to vote across the board. Yes many are on the left but there also many who are quite happy to vote Tory if it suits their pocket.

  • The Word


    “If we remove the British/Irish question from our politics do you really believe the vast majority of catholics are centre left?”

    Yes, hundreds of years of psychological pain at the hands of British has pushed the centre of gravity of Irish Catholics to the left. Most of them don’t realise this and when the word “centrist” is used in Irish politics it tends to reflect a dislike for the extremes of the right and left, where Sinn Fein is found (on the right as well as left), but there is an underlying bias to the left for historical reasons.

    The Irish in Mainland Britain tend to be left of centre in large part but yes, success can make some people feel that they have new friends. They lose their connectedness with their Irish roots.

    But more significantly for those who wish to understand the Sinn Fein position, it is the Irish in the USA who do a lot of fundraising for Sinn Fein, and who have the self-serving view that their approach to nationhood, the US right of centre view of patriotism, is the one that Sinn Fein peep most about in their company.

    That is why Sinn Fein is both exterme right and extreme left in its nature, the right is the natural position for them with the extreme left policies designed to bring them balance again with the centre left electorate. Of course, everybody knows that Sinn Fein isn’t really serious about its leftist credentials. They’re just too extreme for the Irish people and for realism but this antagonism to the other parties serves its own agenda.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Destiny’s child is certainly a good name for Margaret. There is a chance of a United Ireland on her watch – but not even a snowball’s chance with Gerry or Marty.

  • John Brennan,

    The common notion (spread mostly by the SDLP) that Justice would automatically have gone to the SDLP under the agreements is false. If the number of ministries changes, then D’Hondt is rerun from scratch. The SDLP currently have fifth choice.

    The Word,

    Left and right are relative positions. What are you measuring them against?

  • The Word


    “Left and right are relative positions. What are you measuring them against?”

    Conventional European standards that define the right as an approximation of the ego (I, me, mine) position and the left as an approximation of the community position.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Andrew Gallagher
    If d’hondt had been fully rerun the DUP would have had first pick and SF second pick of the policing and justice minster post. Neither of them could tolerate the other in that position. Furthermore the DUP would not stomach any nnationalist whatsoever in the post. So Gerry agreed a gerrymander(under the cloak of a cross-community vote) with the DUP to ensure “no nationalist need apply” – with the post going to a unionist with a small u – provided he is not Catholic. Well done Gerry! The nett effect of this gerrymander (gerrypandering to the DUP) is the SDLP have one minister on the Executive – instead of two – if SF had honoured the GFA arrangements. But then they never signed up in the first place.

  • Mark

    Sinn Fein are left wing , Sinn Fein are right wing , Sinn Fein are for the whole bird .

  • The Word


    “Sinn Fein are for the whole bird .”

    A frank admission indeed. If only they would tell the truth about this.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    On this issue she would have been better to say nothing.
    Her own supporters certainly identify in greater or lesser extents to Labour (the sister partys) socialism and recoil at Labours “sticky” credentials and 26 county-ism.
    Her own supporters identify in greater or lesser extent with Fianna Fáils nationalism but recoil in disgust at the cronyism.
    And (whisper it) to a greater or lesser extent her supporters identify with SFs republicanism and recoil at the violence with which SF is tarnished.

    But…….she should have said……nothing.
    Simply put, keeping any party focussed is difficult. It cant be done by indicating a kind of favouritism to any other whether in the South. Or indeed in the North.
    It would be for example very foolish of Ms Ritchie to advise her supporters (even by nod and wink) to give a second preference to one of the other Norn Iron parties.

  • The Word

    John Brennan

    “There is a chance of a United Ireland on her watch – but not even a snowball’s chance with Gerry or Marty.”

    Very true. The evolution of the Sinn Fein position from its support for the IRA to its own abstention from the negotiating of the structure of the GFA suggest that Sinn Fein has no interest in uniting Ireland, only in confirming some degree of superiority for its morality and position.

    The unionists are the same and the GFA was largely negotiated without them.

    Neither can stand the GF Agreement.

    The SDLP needs to educate the electorate in the ways of their opponents before making a case for their own way, because these people just keep coming back to the tri-colour position, and telling the voters that the SDLP are abandoning it.

    Unity can only come from the SDLP. The Sinn Fein and DUP positions are based on a preparedness for war, not peace.


    I think that there are a lot of things that the SDLP can say about the next Dail election and some things will need to be said to bring greater knowledge of Sinn Fein and its ways to the electorate. I salute Margaret’s effort so far.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Did ye see where Destiny’s Child getting stuck into the Police Ombudsman? Good on ye girl. It’s long past time for publishing the truth about the 1994 Loughinisland pub murderers.

    Going back to the gerrymandered appointment of Stormont’s justice minister:

    When d’Hondt was first run there were 10 departments. Under that totally fair mathematical system, 10 ministers were appointed – 6 unionist, 4 nationalist.

    Had that same system been rerun for 11 posts (now including the recently devolved Justice department), there would have been an even more equitable 6:5 unionist/nationalist ratio. Instead, DUP and Sinn Fein rigged the votes to ensure a discriminatory 7:4 unionist/nationalist ratio. Somewhat better than “I wouldn’t have one about the place.” – But nevertheless a blatant discrimination against all nationalists. So why did Sinn Fein sell us out?

    Well, the DUP wouldn’t go into government with SF unless they supported the police. Gerry and Marty couldn’t get the boys to vote for that at an Ard Fheis, unless they promised locally devolved control of policing with some Sinn Fein oversight/control. So understandings were arrived at between SF/DUP. On that basis the Ard Fheis vote was delivered. The dirty DUP/SF deal was done and they went into double harness together.

    All of nationalism was then sold out to get a unionist with small ‘u’ into the justice post. The other part of that dirty deal is that it runs until 2012, well after the next election. So the 7:4 discriminatory anti-nationalist ratio is set to continue until 2016 – unless the centre ground is strengthened and the SF/DUP duopoly is broken.

    What we have now was never John Hume’s idea of power sharing – or the shared society we voted for in the GFA referendum

  • The Word

    John Brennan

    I see where you’re coming from on John Hume’s powersharing ideal.

    The compensation, however, for SDLP supporters must be that neither the unionists nor the Sinn Fein position that they talked up all through the Troubles has come to fruition. They have both been thwarted and the proof of this is their common hatred of the SDLP.

    So much do Sinn Fein hate the SDLP that they’re prepared to risk the wrath of their fellow Nationalists in preventing an extra SDLP minister. They know that even just one minister with a good level of competence beats all theirs and that two would show a developing pattern in the relative competences.

    I’m sure most SDLP supporters would like to see more SDLP ministers but while Sinn Fein and all governing parties are subject to a social democratic agreement that ensures that the only creed recognisable under it is centre left, then the SDLP will be in the very essence of the government’s decision-making.

    It really then just comes down to competence.

  • JeanMeslier

    “..They know that even just one minister with a good level of competence beats all theirs and that two would show a developing pattern in the relative competences. .”


  • JeanMeslier

    What a silly human being Mags is turning out to be.
    I wonder will she be offering her condolences to the people of the south on the news that Bbbbb..ertie will not be seeking re-election in 2011?

  • The Word


    Hardly due to Sinn Fein that Bertie is exiting. Sure Blair went next election after stepping down.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Following the tradition of great Irish republicans, Margaret Ritchie might well have reflected on the following lines, when she delivered her own speech from the dock (the Stormont Assembly). She was about to be hanged, drawn and quartered, by her DUP and Sinn Fein Executive colleagues, for the crime of withholding public funds from CTI / UDA:

    “You ask me what defense is mine, here midst your armed bands.
    You only mock the prisoner, who is helpless in your hands.
    For what will defense avail me, though good it were and true,
    Here in the heart of London town, with judges such as you?”

    However, knowing full well they were determined to hang her out to dry, she eloquently pitched her appeal over their heads, addressing all democrats:

    “While others may view recent events differently or may decide that law and order is not a priority at this stage, I beg to differ. My political compass is fixed and it does not involve prioritising the illegal over the legal, or the law-breaker above the law-abiding. The cycle of community involvement equating to paramilitary involvement will have to be broken once and for all.”

    Apart from those who built political careers through violence, or through dependence on, and support for, terrorist organisations, who in their right senses would quarrel with the objective of completely removing the insidious cancer of paramilitary malignancy from the body politic?

    Destiny’s child was applauded for her courageous stance then. Surely, she still deserves support from all true democrats?

  • Neil

    Destiny’s child was applauded for her courageous stance then. Surely, she still deserves support from all true democrats?

    She was by some. Yet others were convinced she was rash and legally incorrect, the latter having been proven correct in the long grass I think..?

  • 241934 john brennan

    Neil: Do you approve of using public money to to bribe paramilitaries to give up guns and stop shooting police? (chief Constable: “I wouldn’t give them 50p).

    In this case it was the Destiny’s Child’s refusal to withhold public money from the UDA, which eventually encouraged them to hand over some guns.

  • Neil

    My approval or lack thereof is irrelevant to me at least. The salient point is that Worzel made a rash and legally incorrect decision, and regardless of her intentions being overruled and wrong kind of takes the rose tint off things for me.

    In October 2007, the social development minister’s move over a loyalist initiative led to what were described as “extraordinary” scenes in the chamber of the Northern Ireland assembly.

    She announced her intention to stop the initiative which was to get £1.2m of government funding.

    The minister cut funding for the Conflict Transformation Initiative (CTI) when the UDA failed to meet her 60-day ultimatum to end criminality and begin decommissioning its weapons following violence in Bangor and Carrickfergus.

    However, at the Northern Ireland assembly, the then Finance Minister Peter Robinson accused her of being in breach of the ministerial code.

    In April 2009, a High Court judge ruled Ms Ritchie was wrong to cut funding as she had not followed proper procedure.

  • Neil

    Sorry John, on second thoughts I should probably answer your question for the sake of good manners. Yes, I approve of bribing people to stop killing, if that’s what it takes. It would be a cold heart that could watch a theoretical child burying their dead father for the sake of a few public pounds. If it works, go for it.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Neil: Thanks. Your replies prompt more questions.

    Would you be in favour of bunging the present Dissident republicans a few million pounds to stop their killings? After all what is sauce for the IRA and UDA goose is sauce for the Dissident gander. What harm in another dissident group setting up other separate community projects, under guise of Conflict Transformation Initiatives? But then, where would it all end?

    Any chance of getting a few quid for stopping verbal abuse on Slugger?

  • Reader

    Neil: Yes, I approve of bribing people to stop killing, if that’s what it takes. It would be a cold heart that could watch a theoretical child burying their dead father for the sake of a few public pounds. If it works, go for it.
    Any positive results are temporary:
    “And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we’ve proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.”

  • 241934 john brennan


    I agree with your motives/sentiments. But society needs to maintain standards. It is never right to do an evil act to possibly achieve a good end.

    In this so called democracy, the electorate never approved the financing of paramilitaries, or ex-paramilitaries, through secret slush funds – creamed off fom public money set aside for the social services and benefits.

    Should ordinary pensioners remain cold, while pensioned paramilitaries live high on the hog?

  • 241934 john brennan

    Destiny’s Child is on the warpath – this time against the Police Ombudsman for putting an indefinite delay on the publication of a completed, but unpublished, report into 1994 UVF murders in a Loughinisland bar.

    “The Ombudsman simply can’t provide a date for publication…. Are the British government and MI5 playing a role in trying to prevent the publication of this report? …. Questions have to be asked if there is political interference at the highest level ….. I have never known the authorities to have acted so apathetically towards the push for answers and justice as I do now.”
    Go on, ye girl ye!