Gallagher to fight FST for the SDLP…

One of the fascinating differences between north and south is the difference in age profiles of the parties. I read somewhere recently the average age of the Dail is somewhere in the early sixties. But at the rate all parties are dumping old hands it should be considerably younger after the elections than now.

So it is interesting that the SDLP in Fermanagh South Tyrone have plumped to stick with their veteran incumbent MLA Tommy Gallagher, choosing to deploy their younger impact player from the Westminsters, Fearghal McKinney, in an organisational role instead.

It won’t do the party’s overall age profile any good (where it is hard to find many of its 16 MLAs under the age of fifty), but it probably indicates too a lack of confidence within the party organisation in that area. And possibly a lack of confidence in the party’s intervention in the FST where both Unionist parties withdrew in favour of an independent Unionist candidate, and the Sinn Fein MP squeaked through by the narrowest of margins.


  • Dec

    The main problem facing the SDLP in FST is that unlike Foyle and South Down they can’t rely on thousands of unionist votes.

  • joeCanuck

    Experience is a valuable tool but if you don’t continually bring in new blood eventually you end up with a pile of dead wood. SF are approaching that hurdle too, I think.

  • Big Boss

    Of course Dec!

    How has no1 ever seen this before, the only reason the SDLP gets seats is by Unionists voting on mass for them!!! its all so clear it couldn’t be anything other than that!!

    Despite their totals in Assembly elections being enough to win an MP seat in both those areas (unless of course unionists vote for them 2).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Perhaps this should be seen in the context of a post from Rodney Edwards on “Slugger O’Toole” dated 5th December 2010. In it Mr Edwards points up some comments by SDLP veterans (in FST) who were critical of the SDLP organisation in the area and Tommy Gallagher MLA.
    In a comment, I pointed out that SDLP had never really punched its weight in the area….where the first item on the agenda was “do we put up a candidate?”. Slugger regular “SDLP Man” broadly agreed with my analysis.
    I am sure that SDLP members would acknowledge that Fearghal McKinneys performance in FST was not good. In a contentious First Past The Post Election he scored just about half of the votes, Gallagher had in 2005. Sinn Féin partisans will of course point out that this means SDLP is “finished” in FST. But they cannot have it both ways. They cannot appeal for SDLP voters to rally to the SF cause in the circumstances of May 2010 (Connor as a Unity candidate) AND then proclaim SDLPs obituary. The most likely scenario is that most if not all the SDLP voters who answered SFs appeal will return home in 2011. The SDLP quota in FST seems safe.
    Mr McKinney has gone on to be Deputy Chair of SDLP. The choice of candidate is somewhat academic…whether Mr Gallagher, Mr McKinney or the excellent and under-rated Rosemary Flanagan would certainly be in the next Assembly.
    Mr Fealty points up not just one possibility but two. Internal division and “lack of confidence” in the FST result. Let me raise two possibilities of my own. That 68 year old Mr Gallagher wins the FST seat but does not serve a full term, resigning in favour of Mr McKinney. The second possibility is that Mr McKinney is one of a new breed of “professional” politicians whose media background would be better used centrally in the next few months. People like Conall McDevitt, Pól Callaghan are both professionals and both under 40……..and they are likely to be joined by others….have scored well for SDLP in 2010.
    Sometimes we see things that just are not there. In this case I think the SDLP choice means exactly what it says on the tin.

  • Mick Fealty


    Good post.

  • Munsterview

    JoeC : “Experience is a valuable tool but if you don’t continually bring in new blood eventually you end up with a pile of dead wood. SF are approaching that hurdle too, I think…..”

    I do not just sit on my hind quarters in the bottom end of Ireland posting comments. I was there in Donegall after driving through some appalling conditions may I add, when Pearse Doherty was declared a TD.

    It was something to see, I was surrounded by a crowd of young people and the buzz was all around Sinn Fein people. I can honestly say that the under thirties out numbered us greyheads three to one.

    The following day we had a struggle to get on the road with the ice and snow. I called to Straban at eleven o clock some of these same young people from a wide area were there holding a meeting and all in their late teens/early twenties. I for one went home happy!

  • joeCanuck


    I’m pleased to hear that young folks are engaging. I mistakenly thought they had all tuned out.

  • MichaelMac

    While will those who switched to SF from the SDLP at the Westminster elections return back to the SDLP? There is no logical explanation as to why they automatically should.
    The SDLP in that area is in meltdown and can be seen as such by the electorate. There is also the likelihod that the people in that area will continue to show their disgust at the SDLP decision to run Mc Kinney and continue to vote for SF.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Why is anyone surprised about which candidate is selected by the SDLP. A key word in their title is DEMOCRATIC – with democratic selection procedures – one member one vote – unchanged from the original demand of “,ONE MAN, ONE VOTE”.

    A majority democratic decision doesn’t always produce the best result – and a majority sometimes gets it wrong – as in ‘ask the audience.’

    Still as one defeated election candidate once put it: “The people have spoken. Damn them” That’s democracy. That’s the SDLP way

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Michael Mac illustrates my point perfectly. Never loan anyone money or a vote…they will never be grateful….and clearly in the case of Sinn Féin in FST will appeal for votes to be loaned and then use the loaned votes to write the obituary of the SDLP.

    Classy. Are the SDLP voters likely to be impressed by that? I doubt it. The hardcore SDLP voters who stood by McKinney wont vote Sinn Féin in any circumstances. Possibly they see that “Unity” candidates such as McManus, Maguire and Sands actually hampered SDLP organisation in FST (they are contributory factors…there were other problems I recall from living in Dungannon 1979-1982). If the SDLP is to have any credibility it must fight every constituency.
    Thats the mistake it made in FST and a line appears to have been drawn in the sand.
    Indeed 2010 might well be the year where the SDLP began to fight back.

  • 241934 john brennan

    SF/SDLP electoral pacts in Fermanagh! DUP/UUP pacts in west and north Belfast! To achieve what?

    Increased tribalism, with an end of hopes for a shared society in the North, or any form of unity, or agreement, with the South?

    When unionists formed an electoral pact in Fermanagh, Sinn Fein condemned it as ‘sectarian’ – and then called for a similar pact with the SDLP!

    However, on the same day as that call was made, SF and DUP concocted a deal to prevent any nationalist getting the post of Justice Minister. No matter how you cut it, with an increase in the Stormont departments from 10 to 11, the SDLP were entitled to an additional post. The Executive now has a 7:4 unionist/split, instead of a more equitable 6:5 split.

    Sinn Fein has yet to account for selling out nationalism.

    As things presently stand, sectarian electoral pacts are irrelevant – except for promoting the DUP and SF. Likewise voting for one bogey man, just to keep the other bogey man out of the First Minister’s job. That suits the electoral aims of DUP/SF, but apart from increased sectarian head counts in each conflicting camp, it neither achieves nor delivers anything for the people.

    After the evident failure of the present sf/DUP DUOPOLY to produce any credible government, or to form any credible economic plans, is it not time for real democratic government? Our as John Hume put it: “learn to trust each other by working our common ground together”

    The alternative to the logic of Hume is to continue as we are with the DUP/SF, whose past 4-year record shows their belief that Barnum’s logic is also wrong – and you can actually “fool all of the people all of the time.”

  • True Blue

    Surprised no one has mentioned the fact that former SF Enniskillen Councillor Pat Cox has also said he will run for the Assembly. Add Gerry McHugh/Bernice Swift to the mix and you will see it is instead Sinn Fein that are in a mess in Fermanagh

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well no…..Sinn Féin are not in a mess in Fermanagh. Gerry McHugh is a nonentity who is standing for the Assembly. He will end up with a Council seat which is probably the motivation of the other non entities mentioned in your post.
    Sinn Féin will take two seats there…SDLP will take the other nationalist/republican seat.