SDLP play the same Ministerial card expecting a different result?

So #TrandyPalitics it is then for the SDLP (see this weirdly compelling parody of  Alex Attwood on Twitter for context). Rumours over the weekend that Patsy McGlone would be taking on the Environment portfolio, appear to have been a prelude to his ousting from any remaining power inside the party (and Stormont).

Not only will McGlone not be Minister of Environment, he won’t be holding any chairs or vice chairs (see comment below) at Stormont either (which is a peculiar reward for his committee work on NI Water last year). The SDLP is not in a position to be lopping off the few scraps of talent it has retained through its long political recession: no doubt making more enemies in the process.

According to Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the dinosaurs became extinct large because of their failure to adapt to a sudden change in their environmental conditions. The trouble is that in our mandatory coalition arrangement it is almost impossible to shock old parties into adopting new responses to new situations.

As a result, the SDLP is already being treated as an historic footnote by the wider media, and for good reason. It continues to ignore the fact that its current offering is either switching former voters off, or sending them over to vote (and in some cases even work) for Sinn Fein instead.

“Ideologically pure, but electorally irrelevant” may be its final epitaph.

  • Chris Donnelly

    A truly dreadful decision by the SDLP. They clearly have not a clue regarding how to turn things round.

    McGlone should have been a shoo-in for Environment, even if only to provide a fresh face for the party.

  • AGlassOfHine

    In my honest opinion,( I hate that IMO ballix),Alex Atwood is the best of a bad lot !!

  • Mick Fealty


    Now I would have cordial enough relations with all concerned there, but I cannot disagree. Never mind the injury to McGlone; it’s like telling the rest of the world, ‘all we’ve got is Alex’.

    There’s a fantasy shared by many parties who find themselves on the rocks that ‘if I could only get rid of this one, or that, we’d the rest of us all be fine’.

    Turns out that that’s nearly always the very engine of their own disaster (fuelled by the foolish idea that things can’t get any worse). It’s bad comedy for those of us watching; and a political tragedy for those involved.

    Only the Alliance party thus far has had the discipline and intelligence to think otherwise from 2003 onwards.

  • Big Boss

    I think it tells all that the two biggest positions that the SDLP had to offer went to Belfast based MLAs. Im not taking anything away from their ability, but this sort of thinking is exactly what has put the party on its knees.

    The fact that McGlone has been totally ignored by Ritchie is sending out a very clear signal to him, and indeed SF must be loving the bad blood that seems to be going around. Maybe this is some sort of punishment for McGlone perceived comments last monday? indeed if that the case, Mark Durkan will be happy he is off in Westminster! He has has the added pleasure of the 3 MU MLAs with big profile boosts to make his job even harder.

    will there be fall-out from this? Indeed what about the rest of the MLAs that have also been ignored? None of the Foyle based MLAs getting a chance in the face of a very big SF threat… SF wasted no time in getting Anderson on board to build up her profile.

    I gave the SDLP my vote last week, hoping that they would turn things around, i think they are now beyond the hope of no return.

  • CD I suspect that for the SDLP, the law of diminishing returns is slowly taking it’s toll, as is for the train wreck that is the UUP. Their time has come and gone.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d agree with that.

    It’s not that this is just a poor decision, it’s that it betrays an electoral naivety which suggests they are not really serious about politics at all.

    On current course, they are headed directly for pressure group status.

  • joeCanuck

    Bit unfair, Mick. Sure at the next election the SDLP will totally defeat SF and become the leader again.

    Laugh or cry?

  • Gael Eoghain

    The decision by Ms Ritchie, to exclude Patsy McGlone begins the process of final demise for the SDLP.
    Ms Ritchie does not inspire confidence amongst the traditional party base. The negative effect which she brings to the party’s image was only countered in a few constituencies by the appeal of articulate and credible SDLP candidates. Where ‘Ritchie kids’ were those on the block the decline in support is measurable.
    Developments at Stormont today confirm that under the leadership of Ms Ritchie , the SDLP accelerates inexhorably towards electoral irrelevance.
    It is to be hoped that talented, experienced MLA’s like Patsy McGlone escape the mire before they are damaged by continued association with such inepitude.

  • Not disagreeing, but how is Alex being seen as more of the same, while Danny Kennedy being seen as a good choice? Is it because in the SDLP instance someone else was being tipped in a way that made sense? Alex is at least steady, for now, and that is an immediate priority for consideration. Don’t think the biggest issue for either SDLP or UUP is choice of Minister, but how to build party and policy in such a way as to serve politics as it is today, and constructively ditch the past and get real.

  • student

    Reckon the UUP and SDLP have missed a trick to be honest. Now was the time to put in a new face and help raise their profile. With only one minister each they should be making the most of these opportunites, and whilst of course Kennedy and Attwood are solid and reliable, they are the same faces who have been around through the recent years of decline for each party. Both seem to be doing little to help themselves.

  • oracle


    Excellent last line

  • Surely a bigger role for Patsy McGlone will open up soon. Leadership of the SDLP. That would actually be more difficult if he enjoys Margaret Ritchies patronage.

    Put bluntly the SDLP has 15 professional politicians. With a flourish of Margaret Ritchies pen……applying for Gerry Adams old job as Steward of Whatever…….the SDLP could havea 16th professional in South Down.
    Likewise a similar move by Alaister and promoting Bernie Kelly into the Assembly team would be a good move.
    (This would have the added benefit of Big Al standing down as Westminster MP and Conall McDevitt taking the seat in 2015)………and possible promotion for Claire Hanna.
    This would have the added advantage of allowing Margaret to resign the leadership with some dignity and concentrate on near oblivion at Westminster.
    McGlone is the man that SDLP members want to lead them. He reaches parts of SDLP which the metropolitans cant reach. And he doesnt scare off the city boys and girls.
    So I tend to see a bigger picture here.
    Not a snub.
    But a part of the choreography where patsy gets to take on the Leadership.

  • “which is a peculiar reward for his committee work”

    Do we know whether or not Patsy was offered a position as a Minister or as a chair/vice-chair?

  • oracle

    Alex Attwood PR wise has two things going against him his lack of presence and an un-endearing voice.
    I’m sure quite a few Alex supporters will be thinking hell that same brush can be tarred and used on half of the SF team, perhaps what they may fail to understand is that when you have the numbers you don’t have to be sexy.

    However I am mindful of the fact that Alex has become something of a hate figure for the SF supporters not only the internet warriors of the SF base but many of the Connelly house entourage also.
    Not because he has been responsible for hardship being inflicted upon West Belfast or has been uncovered as a closet unionist but merely because he has deprived the SF party of a West Belfast wipe out of the SDLP, leaving SF with the magic and illusive 10/10 assembly seats.

    At any and every opportunity on Slugger and elsewhere Attwood is dragged into discussions somehow and it is always with a negative comment of some sort, if you’re going to be part of a lynch-mob at least have a reason before you noose-up

  • Mick Fealty

    Oracle. Indeed to all of that. Much as I disapprove of the manplaying involved, look at the point being made earlier in the thread.

    SF are in no denial about how to use ministerial post to red out their opponents. Caral for Alban. Michelle to keep patsy pinned down at home. Martina to keep the Derry cubs in their place.

    This is real politics. It may not always work (S Down for instance) but it shows committment to the game of politics not to mention self belief.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I disagree with many republicans in my assessment of Alex Attwood.

    I’ve always thought him an articulate and pretty efficient local representative, as well as a Minister who performed quite competently in office.

    But politics is about more than that.

    He has presided over the almost absolute demise of the party in west Belfast and has a pretty dreadful reputation amongst the broader nationalist electorate, which is now two-thirds Sinn Fein voters.

    His utter contempt for republicans often blinds him in decision making, as when he decided foolishly to almost defend Tom Elliott’s comments at the Omagh count.

    This decision by Ritchie sends out a message that the SDLP really don’t care about what the electorate think.

    There’s no new ideas emanating from this party, only a drifting away of personnel either through resignation or retirement (forced or otherwise.)

    Part of the problem is that the SDLP simply does not know what it stands for or where it wants to go.

    During Count Day, Conall McDevitt stated on television that the SDLP needed to be a progressive party with a ‘nationalist’ base, and not the other way around.

    It was classic post-nationalist stuff, almost a decade on from the Attwood-inspired Stalingrad strategy which so spectacularly failed in West Tyrone.

    Back then, you may recall the SDLP were battling for the Westminister seat; now they’re happy to see off the fourth Sinn Fein candidate just to claim a solitary seat!

    There is plenty of room within nationalism for a more centrist party capable of challenging republicans on the constitutional and bread and butter issues. But it needs to be more assertive and assured about its convictions and ensure that it can challenge Sinn Fein with regard to all-Ireland pedigree.

    Quite an ask, no doubt, but admitting you’ve got a problem is surely the first step….

  • socialdemocrat


    Further to our discussions in an earlier thread, I am going to have to side with Oracle here. This is a lynch mob and if you are trying to argue that this isn’t personal you aren’t doing a terribly good job.

    Attwood is by no means the most popular politician around, but he has conviction, ability and substance. I am yet to see a compelling argument for why McGlone should be minister before him. Yes, this is indeed is a piece of politics, proper politics, the “right man for the job” politics. This is a leader putting in the person they think is best for the job rather than bowing to coup d’etat threats from others who wish to destablilize rather than unite.

  • Gael Eoghain

    Please read what’s being said.

    I’m not part of any lynch mob. I’m not an internet warrior behoven to anyone.
    If you have a look @gaeleoghain on twitter you will see that I’ve been making this argument since the election.
    Despite her locus Ms Ritchie does not appear to understand the rural psyche.
    Patsy McGlone understands everyone as been aptly demonstrated by his ability to attract significant transfers from Sinn Fein and other voters. Election results are the best opinion poll of all.

  • Damian O’Loan

    The Environment portfolio struck me as a very strange decision at first. Looking for the arguments in favour:

    1. The remaining ministries would probably have brought more inevitable, negative press. Related to

    2. The budget cuts may be less stark in this ministry.

    3. It provides a platform to go after Green votes, which perhaps indicates some thoughts about growing the party again.

    4. In the absence of an economic brief, it could present a chance to make a large return from a relatively small budget and appear trustworthy.

    5. It’s a progressive, international brief that creates an opportunity to emphasise the pro-EU position by building ties with the large green lobby there.

    Reading it as gamble on the ministry while playing safe with the Minister seems the only logical explanation.

  • Nunoftheabove

    I just don’t get Attwood. never have. I mean, he’s a smart guy but he grates dreadfully on TV, his eye-rollingly ponderous – and humourless – tone is always that of someone building to a profound and impressive, well polished and pointful punchline which simply never comes, leaving the distinct impression of someone who speaks slowly and in such a constipated fashion as a result of being hesitant and frankly not very bright, still less interesting. You’d have thought he’d have been coached on some of the basics by now (speed the fcuk up and get to the point, Alex), Christ knows he’s been in the game long enough.

    Is this McGlone’s punishment for his immediate post-election broadcast comments about ‘the leadership’ ?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Seems an odd choice, I could understand McGlone not getting it as senior party figures don’t get things like chairs or ministries in the SDLP, however …

    why Alex Attwood, why not Dominic Bradley?

    What if Alex Atwood became an MP this year, who’d take over?

  • Mick Fealty


    If you think this is a lynch mob, you really cannot be used to NI politics. Seriously. Other parties have taken a far harsher drubbing in the past. It comes with the territory.

    It’s a question of hard headed pragmatism. To channel FJH for a moment, Alex is a talent. There is clearly a place for anyone who can competently hold down a difficult ministry.

    But the party has the same disease as the UUP. The fantasy that if only you could get rid of “xxxxx” then everything would be alright. Successful parties look to expand their appeal by building coalitions of interest, not pulling in on themselves.

    You might, like the dissenter, take the view that stability at this point is a good thing. That’s fine, if it works. As it happens, Tom Elliott’s decision to retain Danny K is a popular one inside the UUP. But, crucially, no one else was putting their hands up for the job.

    McGlone is (or was) putting his hand up for the job. Putting him in would have been no guarantee of success, far from it. But he’s a fresh face, has handled matters in a competent manner and could be presented as an intention to do something new with the post.

    It also does – in that way we don’t like to talk about but is meat and drink to all parties on both sides of the border – cover the party’s severely weakened rural flank.

    No matter. The decision is made. It remains to be seen what follows. Maybe there will be action in November when the party has its annual election of the leader. And maybe there won’t.

    Drawing purely from the trends, the party is now on course for extinction and no one at leadership either acknowledges that reality, nor seems to care.

    Nor, if the current status quo abides, will the electorate when the time comes.

    Like German soldiers when they were pushed across the Rhine in WWII, in four or five years time, their demoralised MLAs may simply take their two-term pensions, disband and walk back to their villages.

    And leave the field to at least one nationalist party which better understands the tough and uncompromising exigencies of politics as it is practised on this island.

  • Comrade Stalin


    I completely agree with your article, but then again I can’t stand the stoops and I can’t say I thought you were being impartial 🙂

    The SDLP is highly factionalized internally and I suspect the appointment of Attwood was an attempt, perhaps misguided, to placate one of those factions.

  • About 94,000 people voted SDLP ten days ago.
    Most used their second and third preference votes. I have not analysed the Council Results which will be more representative of the three way battleground between SDLP-SF-AP.
    East Antrim is an interesting Assembly situation.
    SDLP and SF were just about equal on 6.6%/6.7% of votes in 2010. Alliance on about 11%
    SDLP slumped to 4.5% in 2011 and SF picked up to 8.2%…presumably eating into SDLP vote.
    Combined nationalist vote in 2010 was 13.3% and 12.7% in 2011……which indicates some small slippage to AP.
    (AP improved 4.5% but took a lot of UUP votes).
    Conversely SDLP eliminated transfers went in ratio of 7:5 in favour of AP over SF.
    SDLP voters are at heart nationalists/republicans or “lets all get along” and in East Antrim at least seem to be in fairly even numbers. Of course East Antrim is not West Tyrone (not exactly a three way battleground) or North Down (not exactly one either). Councils will be more revealing.
    But if those 94,000 votes are up for grabs……the 58,000 plus in FST, MU, WT, F, SD, N-A, WB………seems more likely to go disproportionately to SF…….certainly in ND more likely to go to AP. Most other places in fairly even numbers.
    For all its “outreach” and counter-productive listening to people who actually would never vote SDLP……the actual voters are nationalists.
    Of course its natural that SDLP politicians/activists/members might see SF as the “enemy” (indeed SDLP activists in most constituencies could live their whole lives and not actually SEE an Alliance Party member) …and might well as activists feel more sympathetic to AP…….. but an attempt to re-connect with lost voters has to begin with toning down the anti SF rhetoric.

  • Mick Fealty


    Can’t claim I was being particularly impartial either! .

    As noted previously you guys don’t have the SDLP’s problem (ie holding a regional wide party together). They do. And it needs resolving one way or another.

    Maybe it has been.


    As it happens, I have learned later in the day that McGlone was offered a chairmanship and refused it.

  • Gael Eoghain


    I share your analysis except for what you say about noone at SDLP leadership knowing or seeming to care about the party being on course to extinction.
    Immediately after the #ae11 results Patsy McGlone (deputy leader) articulated the type and depth of the problems facing the SDLP. He cited strategies which had borne fruit in some areas and obvious issues which needed to be addressed in others.
    McGlone was diplomatically supportive of Ms Ritchie when pressed around the issue of the effectiveness of the party leader but he clearly stated that an indepth review and analysis was required.
    It appears that his express desire for honest reflection and constructive criticsm was too much for an insecure party leader.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Alliance is starting from a smaller base, of course; and in addition in the period around 2003 there was essentially a purge of the leadership. Most of the well known famous faces of Alliance in the 90s were gone by then, or shortly after. David Ford’s victory in the leadership election was the watershed. I think the absence of egos who might otherwise try to protect themselves by holding back the up and coming types is what has helped. It took a near death experience.

    Things may well get “interesting” in Alliance as those who wish to pursue a political career step up to pursue selection for target assembly seats. Looking at the new intake on the councils gives some idea about where those competitions are likely to occur and who will be involved in them. Arguments and rows like that present difficulties for the leadership and frankly, without any sense of irony, the leader has to run the party with an iron fist – either you follow the decision or you’re out on your ear. I guess that adopting this supposedly “stalinist” methology which has worked for the DUP (remember the post-dated resignation letters ?) and SF so there is a lesson there.

  • Mr Fealty….I certainly believe that Patsy McGlone is a bi-lingual politician ….not just in the conventional sense of being a fluent Gaelic speaker. I mean in the figurative sense of talking the language of the Lough Neagh shoreline and the language of the Assembly Committee room.
    He can talk to people on both sides of the Bann.
    I have a lot of respect for Alex Attwood, much more respect for him than his republican detractors in West Belfast. But I have always found him…..”tetchy”…..perhaps as a consequence of the vitriol that has come his way over two decades. And if he scores on ministerial consequence, he loses out as a “clubbable” person….McGlone scores on both competence and that indefinable quality of being at the heart of SDLP.
    We would probably agree that most SDLP voters are nationalists rather than “lets all get along”. I have of course no way of knowing who Ritchie, Attwood, Durkan Bradley, Magenniss, Byrne, McGlone, Dallat etc voted for as a second preference when they entered the privacy of the polling booth. I can only speculate based on public utterances and rhetoric and of course the known issue that they compete for same vote with SF in the same DEAs and Councils (and it gets a bit personal) and I form the reasonable impression that most would not give SF the time of day.
    Unlike the majority of their voters.

  • Mick Fealty

    It will always be tough for people like Alex to hear that last.

    But it would be a lot easier if the party took a more forward view of the future and could see an active part for itself in it.

    The retreat into factionalism may be comforting but it is destructive of what value that remains within the party to the people it seeks to represent.

  • Alias

    I’m not convinced that the outome for the two smaller unionist and nationalist parties would have been significantly different even if they had more dynamic leadership.

    Their problem results from systemic bias that they can do nothing about, so changing policy or leadership won’t be sufficient to save them from becoming institutionally redundant under the present system.

    That system is designed for regional administrative powersharing between the designations of Nationalits, Unionist & Other within the British state (essentially Taig, Prod, and Not Really Fussed). All that is required to meet the condition is one unionist party, one nationalist party, and one ‘other’ party. Anything more is counterproductive surplus.

    It might be a different outcome if the mandatory powersharing didn’t involve ‘sectarian’ designations, but if it didn’t involve such designations then there would be no need for mandatory powersharing.

    The future is PSF, DUP and Alliance.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Have met Patsy a couple of times, and have relatives he has worked for over the years who speak very highly of him, and being not far from his neck of the woods would have liked to seen him in the job. But I would like to put forward one other reason why he should have got the role CITY SLICKERS IN CHARGE OF THE ENVIRONMENT SCARE ME!!!!

    I’m not sure if Alex is a greenie at heart, or maybe he spent his summers on his granda’s farm, and has a caravan in Fermanagh but I suspect like most inner city Belfast folk he barely realises it gets dark at night, has no idea what conacre is and loves fluffy bunnies. I hope I’m wrong but I am worried that planning, councils (inc. RPA) and many environmental issues are now in the hands of a city boy!

  • Lionel Hutz

    The second I started to hear on the news that Patsy McGlone may have got the Ministerial Portfolio as some sort of pay-off to keep quiet and not question the leadership, I thought that it would be better if her didn’t get the job. Patsy is the only candidate from outside the big towns that would be well-placed to take the job but it sends out entirely the wrong message for a party that needs to appear stable. Certainly by comparison to the UUP and in spite of an performing worse that Tom Elliot’s clan in many respects, I’ve liked that the party has seemed more at ease. There has been no equivalent of Basil McCrea searching out cameras to looked worried and concerned in front of. Thats why people have latched on to Patsy’s fairly innocuous remarks at the count centre – did he do anything other than state the bloody obvious. Its been unhelpful to the party that this was seen as a leadership challenge as otherwise, I would have liked to have seen him take the job.

    I would have considered giving the job to Conall or Alban but whats the point. There is a sound basis in giving the post to Alex – stability. The SDLP needs a stable sense of direction. And chopping and changing was not going to help them. Alex has been a relatively new appointment and he has shown himself to be quite capable. That is the one thing that the SDLP need to show themselves to be. Steady and capable. All of this running around like headless chickens has to stop.

    I would also be inclined to take a long view of this. I don’t think that Margaret Ritchie should go just yet. She will not be that visible anyway for the next year or so. She sits in the background – let Alex handle the ministerial stuff, let Conal handle Stephen Nolan etc and let Patsy and Joe Byrne etc put in the hard work in building the constituencies, particularly those rural constituencies (On a side note, I read some good remarks from the latter in the “Ulster Herald” regarding building the structure of the party in WT). The one thing about Ritchie that I like is that she is doing a decent job in my view of bringing the party into line. Say what you like about her, but the party has not shown much dissent against her or infighting under her leadership. Those “in the know” might think that underneath, there are big factions but as someone who looks at this from the outside, I dont think it has shown. There have been a few outburst – eg Declan O’Loan – but they have been dealt with swiftly and without to much collateral damage. She’s no performer on the tellybox- but she doesn’t have to be for a while yet. Remember, we may well have five years in this term, a change of leadership should happen in about two years, making it all seem very dignified. Whoever does lead the party into the next elections would also have a bit of freshness in the role by the time they come round.

  • “Nevin,

    As it happens, I have learned later in the day that McGlone was offered a chairmanship and refused it.”

    Thanks, Mick. I asked the question because I felt it was a possibility that could easily have been overlooked ie that he turned down an offer.

    Doesn’t paragraph two in the thread opener need editing? ‘Peculiar reward’ IMO is no longer appropriate.

  • “its current offering is either switching former voters off, or sending them over to vote (and in some cases even work) for Sinn Fein instead.”

    Mick, there have been strange things happening in the Ballycastle and the Glens DEAs in Moyle. Both the SDLP and SF have lost out to independent Irish republicans, each of the latter topping the poll in their respective wards. The SDLP continues to slide downwards and SF appears to have lost the run of itself – family, factional and other difficulties.

    Strangely enough, the Dunloy factor features in both. The SDLP candidate in the Glens was a Dunloy ‘blow-in’ and Dunloy folks are being blamed for the deselection of an experienced and loyal SF councillor in Ballycastle and his replacement by a Glens man. Some say all politics is local and in North Antrim it can be very local!

    As a footnote, the UUP gained one councillor in Moyle following the departure of an Independent unionist and the DUP dropped one to the TUV.

  • CD. I’m not defending Ritchie, but wondering where would the party be idf McDonnell had beaten MR back then. Possibly the Yes Minister scenario with Eric or Duncan in the xmas special. The choice between a civil war in the party in three years[MR], or in three weeks with |McDonnell.

  • J Kelly

    The amusing thing about the title of this thread is that while minister at DSD Margaret Ritchie used this quote during a speech on regeneration and it she has quoted continiously in Derry ever since. The minister issue is a side issue, the big question here what are the SDLP about in a post conflict Ireland 2011. This is not 1971 or even 2001. I would ask any member or supporter of the SDLP to articulate in one sentence what do the SDLP stand for today.

    They lack leadership, credibilty and strategy in the election gone past they had a real chance of going back in with 17 seats. Strangford and West Tyrone while expecting to lose North Antrim but what happened they lost three sitting MLA’s and if honest it could have been worse. From the outside looking in they seemed to fight 18 separate election campaigns and even worse than that it could be argued they fought 28 separate campaigns.

    The factionalism within the SDLP is not about policy, approach or even personality its all about me. Alaidair McD wanted to be leader to protect himself from Conal McDevitt, Mark Durkan, Alex Attwood and Conal McDevitt pushed for Maragret Rithchie to ensure their role in the leadership.

    The electorate like positives, forward thinkers not whingers and criers. John Hume always spoke positively and forward looking. Every time that Rithchie, McDevitt or Attwood opens a mouth they start by attacking Sinn Fein it doesn’t wash with the electorate.

    This quabble will lead to the demise of Margaret Ritchie and the issue will be who got a skoda and who didnt, totally papering over the big issues.

    With all this said and done I have to say I am enjoying the craic.

  • Lionel Hutz

    In saying all of the above, MRs days as leader are close to an end I think.

  • I take Nevins point about Moyle. It has always had a very independent streak.

  • I cant answer J Kellys question as a SDLP member. Merely as a person who wishes them well.
    In one sentence…..what is the SDLP all about?
    They might answer (and I hope they dont as members should confine themselves to an internal debate) that they are “proudly Northern, proudly Irish and proudly European”.
    This works as a soundbite but not as a coherent policy. It comes across as contradictory. They can speak of being “northern” but not in the context of “British” which falls short of approval by the “lets all get along” folks.
    Margaret Ritchie can wear a poppy (most members of SDLP would rather poke their own eyes out) and say she is not afraid to say “Northern Ireland”.
    Fair play to her but will she ever say “Londonderry”? No I dont think so either. SDLP can only go so far with that rhetoric.
    Next November how many SDLP members will be wearing a poppy in the Assembly Chamber? Or ordinary members? Or 94,000 of their voters? Er…
    As a sideshow….there is no way of de-railing all that First World War Battle of Somme lions led by donkeys stuff from the post WW1 British experience of the Black & Tan War, India, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan or …….Norn Iron.
    Proudly Irish? Yes I am too, thanks for asking. But the addendum “proudly European” seems like a hastily added qualification, to distance themselves from nationalist movements of late 19th century Europe (its all so unfashionable)…..indeed “northern, Irish, European” is as much riddled with contradictions as it is pleasantly inclusive.
    The Alliance Party do that whole poppy wreath laying nonsense so much better. And theres even a case for saying Sinn Féin do it better because they leave no doubt (except to the dissidents of course) that its only lip service and they are not taking it seriously.
    With the SDLP, nationalists can never quite be sure.
    Indeed neither can the SDLP. Proud winners of the Slugger Quiz Night, they manage to undermine themselves by calling themselves “Stoops to Conquer”……ok we get it, they are adopting “stoops” (Stoop Down Low Party” in a post ironic way as gangsta rappers adopt the “N” word. No longer an insult? Talk about self esteem.
    Of course I can say this…..and WILL say this precisely BECAUSE I am nota member. Anybody who actually voted SDLP has a right to feel mightily pissed off with their lack of professionalism and……leadership.
    SDLP voters would actually lose the right to be critical if they walked into the local SDLP office (soon to close in FST, SA and NA) and handed over a £20 membership fee. It will probably have to rise.
    They should be paying people to join. Or at least head hunt the well wishers rather than tippy toe round Unison, NIPSA, Human Rights “industry” insiders, academics.

    For many, including myself….the Good Friday Agreement IS……or more accurately now….WAS enough. The glorious ambiguity of it all and no deaths.
    The SDLP rivals have a different take.
    It is to be used to bed down getting on together ignoring constitutional issue (the Alliance position) or to kick on towards Irish unity (the Sinn Féin position). And essentially this is the fork in the road that the SDLP finds itself. Going down two roads is not an option and the wider leaderships perceived preference for one path is at odds with the broader support.
    The Leadership.
    There is a certain tactical value to Margaret Ritchie……MP for South Down……but did she actually win votes for SDLP in South Antrim, Strangford, East Antrim or Fermanagh-South Tyrone. Resoundingly no. To my certain knowledge, many loyal SDLP voters voted for the Party in spite of Margaret Ritchie…..not because of her. And many others chose not to vote SDLP because of her pathetically poor TV performances. She is both hapless and hopeless.
    She will not be Leader next time around and I fully take the points made that it is a long time to the next election. But we all know the choeography. The question is whether the dance is a quickstep or a slow waltz.
    Id go for the quickstep.

  • Sean Og

    “Attwood is by no means the most popular politician around, but he has conviction, ability and substance. I am yet to see a compelling argument for why McGlone should be minister before him. Yes, this is indeed is a piece of politics, proper politics, the “right man for the job” politics.”

    I think this quote from Socialdemocrat is a big part of the SDLP’s problem. They just don’t get politics. They take the high moral ground and expect the voters to reward them but they never do. SF and Alliance are running rings around them.

    So what do they do the next time the voters fail to recognise their moral position? Same again and hope for a different result. Madness.

  • Bungditin

    Drumlin Rocks “….but I am worried that planning, councils (inc. RPA) and many environmental issues are now in the hands of a city boy!”

    Remember planning has been in the hands of a farm boy for the last couple of years. His parocial vision barely extended beyond Lisburn…a reason why RPA did not take place.

    Patsy McGlone’s support for further relaxation of rural planning to allow even more bungalows in the countryside is one reason why I would not consider him suitable for the post of environment minister.

  • Sean Og

    Patsy McGlone’s support for further relaxation of rural planning to allow even more bungalows in the countryside is one reason why I would not consider him suitable for the post of environment minister.

    But how would it play with nationalist rural voters? That’s what the SDLP should be thinking but she isn’t.

  • barelegs

    If the SDLP are honest with themselves then they will acknowledge the elephant in the room. Half of them want to be in Fianna Fáil and the other half want to be in Labour. Ritchie, Attwood and McDevitt fall into the latter category and McGlone is in the former.

    Their last leadership contest boiled down to the same issue. Ritchie addressed the Labour Party’s conference ruling out any link up with Fianna Fáil much to the displeasure of the pro Fianna Fáil wing and relations have soured ever since. Trying to appoint McDevitt to a committee chairmanship without being elected was another ill judged move.

    On the other hand, to link up with Fianna Fáil at the minute given all that has gone on in the south over the last year or two would appear to have been a wise choice. However the manner in which Ritchie has gone about managing her party and its internal divisions has been poor at best.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Sean Og!

    They are really missing the real game that’s afoot (or rather not)… Far too much political science and not enough blood and guts politics.

    There’s a lot of material on this and the previous threads I would urge all factions of the party to read and think on.

    But mostly, you have to get where the people are, otherwise you lose your licences to keep operating.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’ve said this privately to several of the protagonists mentioned above, that this is an elephant they simply cannot afford to keep. It will eat them out of house and home.

    Apart from anything else, neither southern party will want to get burdened with a commitment to expand into NI if their northern partner is so weak it will look to crib off scarce resources.

  • Lionel Hutz

    You would think that recent events in the south would have answered that question for them.

  • I dont think its actually necessary to use the spectre of Fianna Fáil or Irish Labour mergers to explain the SDLP dilemna.
    The dilemna is actually in their name “Social Democratic AND Labour Party” and as with all coalitions they work better when successful. And plainly SDLP is not successful at the moment and tensions emerge.
    If the down ward spiral was to continue to the point where the Party imploded and fell apart (not imminent) it would split into the component parts…..left of centre, nationalist, NDPish, Human Rights-ish.
    To some extent the compromise/fudge is underscored by links to European Socialists rather than direct “Irish” or for that matter “British” links.
    And we have in fact been here before.
    Fitt and Devlin took away a lot (but not all) of the Labour influence.
    John Turnley took the IIP (nationalist) route.
    And any general imploding would go along the same lines.
    In among the membership in West Belfast and Im told South Belfast are names Id recognise as being from families associated with the “Stickies” so there is a new Left element.
    If it was to actually break away, Id see a certain common purpose with People Before Profit agendas and the old chestnut of a “new” Labour Party. But ultimately nothing would ever come of it. Two election cycles at best.
    Likewise if the “nationalist” element ever broke away as a psueudo-IIP or Fianna Fáil type party, there is no long term future in that. The IIP is nothing more than a footnote.
    The ultimate beneficiary would be Sinn Féin.
    There is no way Alliance could mop up “liberal unionist/conservatives” and “leftward leaning nationalists”.
    To some extent that Labourite influence would be urban in Belfast and Derry but the nationalist influence would have a wider reach.
    The clue is in the numbers.
    Unionist votes (DUP 198, UUP 87, TUV 16) 311,000
    Constitutional Nationalist (SF 178 SDLP 94) 272,000
    AP 51,000

    Unionist votes (Faulkner 183 DUP,VP etc 245) 428,000
    Constitutional Nationalist (SDLP) 160,000
    AP 66,000

    If its accepted that Sinn Féin is actuallya constitutional party and leans to the left….then effectively its on the same SDLP “coalition” ground.
    Ultimately SDLP voters must ask is the SDLP so very different?

  • Alias

    If you look at Belgium as an example of consociationalism, you’ll see that it is divided along linguistic lines as NI is divided along sectarian lines, and, likewise, there is one monolith party for each of the linguistic groups. That is systemic bias. Another casuality of that system is a left/right divide. The logical outworking is one major protestant party, one major catholic party, and one major party that isn’t either of the foregoing.

  • exsdlp

    The fate of the SDLP under the current leadership is very difficult to watch. Unfortunately for Margaret Ritchie she simply cannot connect with the public. She is described earlier on this thread as ‘hapless and hopeless’ and that sums her up. It also sums up the current leadership team, and that phrase, ironically does not include the deputy leader. Patsy only got a look in with Margaret when the time came to play “share the blame” after the election.
    Some very straightforward tactical errors which should have been avoided were not. An example is FST where Fergal McKinney ran last year, and presumably the party invested a lot of money and time only to abandon him this year. Stupid stuff.

    Unfortunately the longer Margaret Ritchie stays in post the longer the road will be to recovery.

    It is heartbreakingly frustrating to watch this once great political movement with leaders like Hume and Mallon reduced to a small team of Labourites who serve their own interests. Heartbreaking

  • Im the one who described her as hapless and hopeless. And her incompetence is almost embarrassing. As yet the decline of the SDLP is not yet terminal but there will come a tipping point unless drastic action is taken.
    The SDLP “project” (peace, lefty, constitutional nationalism and republicanism) is actually more important than the SDLP brand.
    Using the numbers above, constitutional nationalism has actually gained ground over 40 years and the process cannot be undone.
    It would of course be an irony….perhaps a travesty if Sinn Féin are the beneficiaries and the only constitutional nationalist party left standing. As I have stated many times nationalists need two nationalist parties….Viable nationalist parties……and Mrgaret Ritchies sole achievement has been to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…..SDLP did not nail SF on ministerial incompetence….at least partly because she failed to appear a competent leader.
    Fermanagh-South Tyrone… interesting. I speculated some months ago that the decision to run Tommy Gallagher was probably to allow Fearghal McKinney a more central role in the campaign and that he would be co-opted quite soon into the Assembly. Well the best laid plans and all that……but the age profile of MOST of the South Tyrone SDLP council candidates undermined Gallagher. They were people I recall from my time spent in Dungannon thirty years ago. I dont know about the Fermanagh folks.
    But interestingly in a post election TV programme a young woman journalist (Deirdre???? somebody, apologies as it was first time Ive seen her) stated that the new MLA Phil Flanagan was exactly the sort of person who would have been at home in SDLP a few years back.

    Likewise the Voters. There is no longer a significant “stigma” attached to voting Sinn Féin.

  • Big Boss


    The council candidates for Dungannon town where put in because they were the only ones who could win. They had excellent results in all of the areas except Dungannon Town where there seems to have been a local problem. Indeed so much that Vincent Currie didn’t even bother putting vote Quinn 2 on his election poster. One Shinner at the door was able to say the SDLP are running an independent campaign. I dont know which party was to blame for that result.

    I remember the same statement being made about Flanagan, but what hope have the SDLP got when any young candidate they seem to attract is rejected by the already establish order?

  • Big Boss

    Indeed things like that would put any young person off going into the SDLP, they simply wont get a chance. SF give youth a chance, Dungannon Council is an example, and i wouldnt put it past young SDLPers like quinn if they want a future in politics, to go to SF

  • Mick Fealty

    As it happens BB, I asked Malachi that very question:


  • “Big Boss” puts me in a slightly uncomfortable position as I know some of the Dungannon folks. I used to live there and still have family connexions in Dungannon/Coalisland.
    I dont think Malachy Quinn is the kinda guy who would suddenly discover that he is more SF than SDLP and join SF.
    I know that liberal unionists do that kinda thing.
    Although obviously not from a career point of view LOL

  • Thanks for that Mr Fealty. Exactly the sort of person any political party would want in their ranks.
    The tragedy is that Malachy Quinn was not elected. Nor was his running mate Vincent Currie. It would have been reasonable to assume that one would have been elected….perhaps leading to a co-option for young Mr Quinn down the road in a year or two. Indeed he has a slight advantage in having a foot in Torrent and Dungannon DEAs.
    But it would be a total tragedy if a promising career is cut short by sheer incompetence displayed by the Partys leadership.
    If the SDLP in Fermanagh-South Tyrone are not angry………they should be!!!
    Time for a few people to start calling for a change of personnel AND direction. And by a happy coincidence theres enough Assembly Party meetings,Party Executive meetings and Central Council meetings coming up in the next few weeks to make that possible.

  • Big Boss


    Interesting answer, but unless something is done with his party soon, its a view he wont get to express unless he goes with SF.

  • Is there not a place for someone like Malachi Quinn in the Alliance Party? He appears to be talking an AP narrative yet he’s wearing a partisan SDLP top.

  • No Nevin.
    There are no Alliance careers (ie professional politics) west of the Bann and never will be in FST and Mid Ulster.
    And this was I think a “party line campaign stuff”.

  • So what’s Malachi doing in a moderate partisan party like the SDLP, fjh?

  • Nevin,
    Basically only Malachy Quinn can answer that question but I think ALL political parties are partisan (thats the nature of party politics)……and being “moderately partisan” seems a more reasonable moral position than being “extremely partisan”.
    Perhaps no Party has a monopoly of moral superiority. On another thread, I posed the thought that no politician from UUP or SDLP should cling to the notion of moral superiority as a vote winner.
    I was happy to see my view shared by a leading apologist for the Alliance Party which had previously been regarded as a Party with a moral compass but is now merely a client of DUP and SF which many reasonable people have always regarded as extremely partisan in their approach.

    “There is just no mileage in any politician from UUP or SDLP clinging to any notion of moral superiority as a vote-winner”

    “Took Alliance about 30 years to figure this out”.

  • Sean Og

    #TrandyPalitics on Twitter. Unbelievable stuff! Patsy McLoner!

  • Big Boss

    Another bad decision by the SDLP in relation to the upcoming Westminster election in West Belfast,

    He they had a good chance to perhaps promote one of 2 Cllrs in the area, or indeed a 3rd person to perhaps build for a seat next time round.

    They instead opt to go for Alex Attwood in another pointless decision, but i guess election time is the only time he gets out around the doors. This party really is thick.

  • In a sense its a meaningless election and Alex is a paper candidate.
    Less than one month after the Assembly/Council Elections its hardly worthwhile going to all the expenses of another one for any of the Parties.
    Paul Maskey will win easily but on a pathetically “poor” turnout which Sluggers finest analysts will attempt to prove means “something”.
    Might as well use the same posters.

    SDLP has all kinds of interesting meetings coming up in the next three weeks and anything to do with West Belfast is (with respect to people there) the least important thing on the SDLP horizon.
    Elections to various SDLP groups and the pitches the candidates make (for and against their wounded Leader) will be worth watching.