McGlone throws his cap in the ring, with a call for pluralist nationalism

So Patsy McGlone is in:

“The SDLP has revolutionised Irish politics. The founding principles of the party are as relevant today as they were during the civil rights campaign. The unity of the people of Ireland, a unity built on trust, along with practical social democracy – being there for people through the good and bad times – lie at the heart of every SDLP member and supporter.

“The way forward for us needs three strategic elements: strong leadership, clarity of message and radically improved grassroots organisation.”

McGlone has been a firm believer in the grass roots up approach in his brief time as deputy leader. But it will take more than hard work and organisation to dig the SDLP out of it’s uncomfortable hole. It needs a message that switches voters from passive to active mode (where most of it’s base is now).

In short, people need a reason to care whether the party lives or dies. It’s too early to tell what McGlone intends from a few short lines on a Presser. But redefining Irish Nationalism in terms of the SDLP’s stated (though too rarely lived up to) pluralist values, is probably not a bad place to start.

, ,

  • keano10

    Two references to Unity then.

    Specifically what he describes as “unity of the people” and “unity built on trust”. I wonder how he will expand on what seems a very general opening pitch with a few soundbites thrown in.

    Perhaps he realised that until he can galvanise and re-organise the shambles that exists within the grassroots structures of his party, that there is little point in detailing too much of his long term vision for the party.

    How relevant are the SDLP in 2011? . What is McGlone’s attitude towards linking up with a Southern party in either a formal or informal basis? How do they counteract the perception of Sinn Fein as being the only all-Ireland political party, particularly from a Northern perspective?

    Lots of unanswered questions, as yet. It’s easy to trot out the pluralist, social democratic line, but a lot more difficult to address the real resaons why their vote has been steadily in decline…

  • Lionel Hutz

    I think the real reasons why the SDLP are in decline are to do with organisation. Lets face it, no party in NI is winning votes on their message. Its all soundbites. The DUP and Sinn Fein give off an air that they have a purpose. What that is is anyone’s guess, but you sense that they feel it?

  • Independent Ulster


    I had a yellow card for linking to the Norris partner paedophile story the day before it was blogged on Slugger any idea why? Was it because it was off topic?

    Patsy McGlone says,

    “The unity of the people of Ireland, a unity built on trust, along with practical social democracy – being there for people through the good and bad times – lie at the heart of every SDLP member and supporter.”

    Perhaps Patsy might like to have a butchers at the recent survey of Nationalist opinion which suggested that it is in fact unity with the UK that lies ‘at the heart of ‘ the majority of SDLP members and supporters.

  • Mick Fealty


    Agreed there is a lack of detail. But it ought to be up to SDLPers to full in the blanks, rather than their critics or rivals. They surely have to be offering an alternative way if skinningthe political cat if any one is going to take notice?

    I thought the claim that the SDLP had changed Irish politics would be worth pursuing in an interview. Not least because I can see a prima facae case for making such a claim.

  • ranger1640

    As a Unionist it’s not for me to tell the SDLP how to run its party, but I must say I do like Conall McDevitt MLA South Belfast. A good choice for deputy I think.

    He is a good speaker and not afraid to take on the DUP and Sinn Fein.

  • Gael Eoghain

    SDLP was established at behest of Cardinal William Conway and the Catholic Hierarchy in Ireland. It has acted as the political wing of the Catholic Church in the North ever since, very much in the same way as Fíanna Fáil has done in the South.
    At local level and in each Nationalist community, prominent Church personnell were also SDLP members.
    After 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement and establishment of Maryfield, ‘catholic’ Ministerial appointees to Public Bodies and School Boards etc were invariably nominated by SDLP and endorsed by the Church.
    1986 also witnessed serious recruitment drive by Knights of Columbanus throughout North of Ireland. Ministerial Appointees from Catholic community tereafter (if Male) were predominantly members of Knights. If female, and Catholic, they were usually trusted family of members of Knights of Columbanus.
    The electoral growth of Sinn Féin was not reflected in their capacity or perhaps desire to change this system of patronage.
    West of the Bann in particular, neat carve-ups between ‘SDLP’ type Catholics and masonic type Unionists still prevail.
    Like its sponsoring body the Catholic Church, in recent years the SDLP’s popularity has waned.
    When Patsy McGlone refers to ‘pluralism’, does he mean ‘splitting the spoils’ with conservative Unionists OR is he inspired by the Enda Kenny pluralism which wants to finally thwart the incidious influence of ‘collar and crozier’ ?

  • pippakin

    I wish Mr McGlone luck he will need it. If he wins he has to galvanise the SDLP into something approaching a viable challenge to SF and the Alliance. I think its all to the good if there can be realistic alternatives on offer for the electorate.

  • 6crealist

    “Perhaps Patsy might like to have a butchers at the recent survey of Nationalist opinion which suggested that it is in fact unity with the UK that lies ‘at the heart of ‘ the majority of SDLP members and supporters.”

    If Patsy decided to take your advice then he would most heartened to learn that 41% of Catholics support the SDLP compared to a modest 27% that lean towards Sinn Féin.

  • AntrimObserver

    “The unity of the people of Ireland…”

    Oh for God’s sake, McGlone, take that fence out of your ass and call for Irish reunification, eh?

    Perhaps if you and your colleagues had some balls and actually made a bold statement about the party’s aspirations, then maybe some votes (apart from your unionist transfers) might swing back your way.

    As it is, if you keep coming out with post-Hume mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy nonsense like ‘the unity of the Irish people’ then you’re doomed as much as Margaret (although your voice would be less painful to listen to).

    Man up. Call for Irish reunification for the first time in 20 years, eh?

  • Independent Ulster


    You say,

    “If Patsy decided to take your advice then he would most heartened to learn that 41% of Catholics support the SDLP compared to a modest 27% that lean towards Sinn Féin”

    Polls, as SF like to tell us so often, do tend to underestimate their vote but perhaps this poll may also be telling the SDLP that the Union may really be a potential vote winner for them?

  • AntrimObserver

    “Perhaps Patsy might like to have a butchers at the recent survey of Nationalist opinion which suggested that it is in fact unity with the UK that lies ‘at the heart of ‘ the majority of SDLP members and supporters.”

    If Patsy decided to take your advice then he would most heartened to learn that 41% of Catholics support the SDLP compared to a modest 27% that lean towards Sinn Féin.


    Funny how they forget that once they hit the privacy of the polling booth, eh?

    But best tell that nice government survey interviewer something that doesn’t offend them though.

    How this survey is funded year in year out to continually misread the electorate’s opinions is beyond me.

  • Los Lobos

    Like most ventures these days a Consultants report is generally a good idea before outlining your proposal. In relation to “uniting the people of Ireland” one would have to ask – where are the costings for such an idea? Who has completed the audit? How will it be paid for? The world wide economic climate would not seem to lend itself to expansion for most Countries, why should we on the island of Ireland be any different? The South of Ireland’s economy is a basket case, we in NI are really only one pay check from the street too, even if everybody in NI said, ok, lets all agree with the SDLP and unite Ireland, the proposal would fall flat on its face. Its always manners to wait until you are asked, an elderly relative used to say to me, i would say the same to those with “nationalist” tendencys who would regard themselves as Irish patriots.

  • Cynic2

    Antrim Observer

    The survey targets the whole population not just the sheep who troop into the booths to tick the box they are told. Baaaaa

  • Cynic2

    “Man up. Call for Irish reunification for the first time in 20 years, eh?”

    What for? You cannot have it. Its a pointless call.

  • Cynic2

    “It has acted as the political wing of the Catholic Church” …… and presumably is controlled from that spaceship hidden in orbit just above Lough Neagh. Time for the tinfoil hats boys!!!!

  • sonofstrongbow

    A”call for Irish unity” would have the same result as a call for my deaf old dog.

  • The key thing is that Patsy McGlones Facebook statement is that “Ive listened to what party supporters have been saying”.
    He is reflecting the “broad” SDLP.
    And while I understand that some journalists are a bit miffed that there was no set piece Press Conference in presumably South Belfast….the rather obvious place for a SDLP politician to engage with the SDLP voters and ex-voters is in the pages of the Irish News…….itself broadly traditional supporters of SDLP.
    Is there actually a better day to have a major interview with the Irish News than on a Monday morning……….GAA results and all that.
    This suggests a better way of dealing with the Media as well as going directly to the “grassroots”.
    I have personally always been concerned about the way the SDLP kow towed to the Media.
    But some salient points…all referenced in the Irish News.

    Margaret Ritchie was an issue on doorsteps. She cost votes. Clearly it is understandable that during an election campaign, canvassers see the glass as being “half full”. ….and reporteda good reception on the doorsteps. The over-optimism of that was seen when the ballot boxes were opened.
    No senior SDLP figure has been rushing to shore up Margaret Ritchie since Election Day. It was uneceesary to either publicly support or criticise Ritchie as it was obvious then that a Leadership Election was inevitable..and that August (and close of nominations) would be the start of the Campaign.
    The previous election….222 votes to 187 was close enough for Margaret Ritchie to be worried about the speculation that Dolores Kelly, a much respected MLA has defected to Patsys campaign.
    And the role of the Parts component parts …Womens Group, Councillors, Youth and branches……will be important factors as well as geographic and other interests…..nationalist/republican, labourite and lets get alongerism.

    It is ironic that the Ritchie camp seem to be relying on the “loyalty factor”. No Leader has actually been challenged for the Leadership. Obviously some folks will now feel that they should publicly support Margaret Ritchie and some will be looking to their own futures. That it might not be such a good idea to be publicly supportive.
    But ony an idiot would consider that Ritchies 2011 Election Campaign was a success. She saw herself become a figure who was criticised…and then becomea figure of ridicule and even pity. Thats no basis for Leadership.

    But Political Parties and their voters enter into a contract.
    “Support me and I will represent your principles and your interests”. This is what the Ritchie-led SDLP has failed to do.
    It has asked people to vote for them and then listened to voices at their own conferences which seek to thwart the principles and interests of SDLP voters.
    Patsy McGlone seems ideally placed to address that imbalance.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Patsy wont give any SDLP supporter a reason to stop voting for them. Thats an improvement on Ritchie.

    I really like Patsy and if I was from Cookstown, he would get my vote. The fact that he holds his own in Marty’s constituency shows his popularity.

    I hope that he becomes party leader. I hope he makes a good party leader but I have a doubt about that. He’s not exactly charismatic. Then again, he’s up against Martin McGuinness, Peter Robinson and Tom Elliot. None of these can up the screen and none are natural on camera.

  • Alias

    The SDLP are Betamax technology in a DVR world. The Stormont system requires one party designated as nationalist, one designated as unionist, and one designated as other. All others are surplus to requirements. It is also counterproductive to each designation under the Stormont system to have two parties from that designation since there is an in-built dynamic that rewards the largest party size with greater sectarian power, and punishes the designation that splits its vote with less sectarian power. The SDLP hacks should stop wasting energy on modest ambition and go back to productive jobs (if they ever had any).

  • J Kelly

    This really is two bald men fighting over a comb. Patsy, Mags or even Big Al will hardly set the world alight. With the proposed dropping of at least two constituencies and RPA the SDLP will only get smaller and smaller.

    Will Patsy take the Ministers Job if elected as Leader and will he allow Big Al to continue to double job?

  • acuriousobserver

    “Patsy wont give any SDLP supporter a reason to stop voting for them. Thats an improvement on Ritchie.”

    That’s not true, I’m afraid. I know a fair few people think Patsy is out of his depth as is. Good on the doorsteps perhaps, but where’s the strategy beyond vacuous rubbish like “leadership, clarity and organisation”?

  • We got to 20 comments before we got the bald men fighting over the comb. 🙂
    I think we might hear the word “Opposition” used a lot over next three months.
    And no candidate is likely to get any extra votes by committing themselves to selflessly Double Job.
    After all three SDLP MLAs lost a job.
    And Staffers are also facing unemployment. So Double Jobbing wont be popular.

  • ThomasMourne

    I look forward to a pleasant change without the robotic utterances of Margaret Ritchie. However the SDLP ship will keep heading to the iceberg under Patsy McGlone or Alasdair McDonnell or whoever.

    Nationalism belongs to the 1950s.

    And sectarianism should have no place in N.I. politics in the 21st century.

  • Dewi

    I think the SDLP’s historic duty is to design a United Ireland constitution – and a bit more than that – address the pension and tax free saving anomalies etc etc. The very latest economic stuff suggests the south is going to come out of this stuff a lot stronger than anyone imagined..whereas the UK? Who knows?

  • socaire

    I think – to show that he is a serious contender – that he should start a Rent and Rates Strike.

  • AntrimObserver

    Thomas Mourne wrote,

    “Nationalism belongs in the 1950s”

    Is that right? Tell that to the multitude of post-Soviet republics who’ve sent the last 2 decades celebrating their nationai identity.

    Hume was spouting this same ‘nationalism is dead’ nonsense just as the Soviet Union’s collapse saw the biggest upsurge in nationalism in 100 years.

    Nationalism is alive and well.

    The SDLP may not have the balls to face the issue – and that’s why the party is dying – but don’t try and pretend nationalist sentiment has waned any.

  • AntrimObserver

    Anyone see McGlone on UTV earlier this evening?


  • Nunoftheabove


    Think the word sentiment’s rather key there, don’t you ?

  • Dewi,
    An interesting observation but Id be wary of any single party designing a “constitution”
    Some might argue that the “national question” be taken out of Politics.
    Or indeed Politics taken out of the National Question.

    In part, the decade of centenaries was being played up to produce a certain choreography for “conflict resolutionists” re-writing History (for a fee) but I actually think that the next decade might see some History “written” rather than “re-written”.
    if ? or When? Ireland does emerge from economic situation, the nation is likely to be more skeptical about Europe…as indeed will many other people on the Continent……and there might be a certain momentum to address very basic issues such as the Banks, Property Rights, Churches.
    Im not a big fan of the catch all phrase “Second Republic” but arguably the 1966 Commemoration of Easter 1916 initiated something…….and quite possibly will do so in 2016.
    I just get the impression that while commemorating the “old”… stuff will happen, not least the fact that many iconic figures wont be around in ten years time. Does that restrict or inhibit us?

    But theres no way a Constitution can be the design of a single Party…..or arguably even purely nationalist.
    The SDLP goals have to be much more short term.

  • slmccni

    The SDLP in terms of message and appearance has always been a bit bi-polar. There were those in the party who were left-wing and drew the line there, such as Gerry Fit and then there were the closet republicans who, when republicans were murdering called themselves nationalist to distinguish. When the GFA was signed I personally thought that the republican element would have been subdued by a collective responsibility to make it work for all but under Durkan the party leaned more into the green and where working class republicans would have laughed at the university educated SDLP and voted Sinn Fein, by trying on Sinn Feins cloathes they lost their broad liberal working class catholic, middle class catholic and preference vote unionists and have really suffered because of it.

    The same fate is befalling their GFA co-signatories – The UUP. Their party factions range from enlightened protestant reformers to Paisleyites who just didnt have the balls to take the leap in the 60’s and 70’s. They should also have leaned more towards the liberal side and worked closely with the SDLP because, lets face it, until Marty and Peter stood and condemned the dissidents, until Sinn Fein and the DUP looked as though they could run the place, the vast majority of people here still thought that our hopes lay in the hands of the SDLP-UUP agreement.

    Both sides have seen their radical co-religionists gradually mellow and ‘out-moderate’ them. Their response was to fill the conservative vacuum left behind. For as long as they allow this to continue and McGlone with his UI pledges is promising the same, they will continue to falter because the DUP-Sinn Fein bloc has now a moderate pawn that they can employ when needed – The Alliance.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I’m a Unionist, yet I voted for the SDLP at the last elections because of Margaret Ritchie( and I also liked the candidate in Strangford). Mind you I was also fed up with the usual suspects standing for the Unionists parties.

    I’m not sure if I vote for them if Patsy was leading them. He would be better trying to unite the people of Northern Ireland first before he tries to unite the island of Ireland. It’s not going to happen in his life time. Saying that, Enda Kenny’s rebuke of the Vatican is going down well with unionists. The first leader of the republic with a bit of backbone to stand up to this corrupt “state.” Maybe with Rome rule finally gone, NI protestants might look at some sort of unity in a different light.

  • Alias

    Alan, I think Enda will be running for cover when the Vatican strikes back. Apparently they’re putting together quite a slapdown to him and the state – particularly its own failure to protect shildren in its care.

  • Big Boss


    Why was it grim?

    Where you hoping for him to break out into a song and dance to living things up?

  • Alan N/Ards makes a reasonable point.
    He voted SDLP in Strangford in part because of SDLP outreach under Margaret Ritchie.
    Strangford was indeed a SDLP target and if we look at Slugger predictions prior to May 2011, there was a school of thought that SDLP could gain a seat there….not least by boundary changes which were deemed “helpful”

    Alans SDLP vote was in fact countered by others who for whatever reason did not vote SDLP. It would broaden the discussion in an unhelpful way to dwell on those reasons.

    Suffice to say that the reason deserves scrutiny. And while I fully acknowledge what Alan has said, Margaret Ritchie lost more votes than she gained.
    That would be the current SDLP analysis and will probably be acted upon in November.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The facts compel observers to make a harsh judgement on the SDLP as a political party striving to maintain a significant electoral and political influence.

    This is not the fault of poor leadership post-Hume, though that has compounded the party’s woes.

    The SDLP started on its downward trajectory the moment the IRA called its ceasefire in August of 1994.

    Remember, Sinn Fein surpassed the SDLP electorally when Hume and Mallon were still in the ascendant within the latter party.

    Patsy will go the way of Mark and Margaret unless and until the party remodels itself to make it appealing to nationalists and, to a lesser extent, others less interested in the constitutional issue but interested in the SDLP’s position on other matters.

    One thing is for certain, though: Ritchie is a goner, and whether it’s Patsy or another compromise candidate who seizes control of the party in the coming weeks, Margaret’s tenure as leader is about to end.

  • Certainly its true that the SDLP lost electoral ground after the “cease fire”.
    It might be said thats where SDLP started the habit of listening to other voices like Gerry Adams.
    Which reached a summit when another Adams…….Davey…. was invited to talk at the SDLP Conference in 2010.
    Patsy McGlone might actually end that nonsense where SDLP Conference is thrown open to people merely to lecture them on how crap they are. No wonder morale is allegedly low.

    Ritchie is indeed a goner. And she probably knows it.
    Patsy McGlone?
    I think so. mainly because hes the only one who has any real stature that is not tainted by “double jobbing” (McDonnell) and I cant see Attwood or McDevitt getting much support for preserving Margarets legacy.

  • Mick Fealty

    Anyone who thinks the SDLP or the UUP are goners are not reading history or human nature correctly. I agree with Chris’ analysis that the SDLP was crushed by the emergence of Sinn Fein as a democratic party.

    But that opposite position won’t go away because of the way the PR system invites people to segment themselves. The SDLP now significantly under punches for it’s current weight in the Assembly. I don’t see that changing immediately, given how the most recent rule changes have created ‘a presidential election by party bloc’ which will exert a consequential drag on any recovery there.

    However council elections are not yet so locked down. This is where I’d expect to see the first signs of recovery. There is already a substantial differential here which may become even more marked in future.

    So to the question can a future leader make a difference, I don’t think there is much doubt they can. It took Sinn Fein twenty years to assume ascendency from a much lower democratic base.

    How might it be done? Again I largely agree with Chris, it has tonne built from within nationalism. That’s perhaps the singular lesson from UCU-NF.

    But there has to be a reason for people to vote/stand for you other than ‘we’re not SF/DUP, which is how both parties have subsisted since ‘the great disruption’.

    Within nationalism there is a job of work to be done in reconciling itself to it’s original, oft quoted but too rarely in evidence Republican values. Resolve Ballynahinch and Wexford and you may have somewhere to go.

  • Chris Donnelly

    They have to be willing and able to organise in Wexford first, and that’s part of the problem.

    There will always be a need for a non-SF voice within nationalism, and any reading of history will provide comfort for SDLP supporters and activists as it illustrates time and again that electoral support will swing decisively away from status quo parties.

    But just waiting for that to happen won’t be enough. The party must reinvent itself in the same way that mainstream electoral parties elsewhere do- ie with an eye to where their target electorate is at and how they can make contact with those voters and persuade them to listen to an alternative voice.

  • Mick Fealty


    As I see it, the Ballynahinch Wexford problem is a design flaw, rather than an existential difficulty which can be resolve by an adjustment of electoral strategies.

  • Independent Ulster

    Mick Fealty,

    You say,

    “Anyone who thinks the SDLP or the UUP are goners are not reading history or human nature correctly.”

    There are many lessons to be learned from history but the dfficult trick is to spot those lesson that are actually relevant to today. Leaving aside the moral issue of having terrorists in goverment, the current Stormont arrangements have little parallel with what has gone before, here or elsewhere.

    What I think we can say is that the current 4 ‘big’ party scenario is attributable to the lack of political stability and the terrorism over the last 40 years and the same factors, or their absence, will probably continue to determine the relevance and survival of these 4 parties.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    ‘How (the NILT) survey is funded year in year out to continually misread the electorate’s opinions is beyond me.’

    Simple, really. It keeps coming up with the ‘right’ result.

    Who can dispute that the NIO got their money’s worth with the latest report, which was a humdinger, even by NILT standards?

    Now, if it an NILT survey ever gave real succour to nationalism (as those pesky elections keep doing), then it’d be wound up faster than Gregory Campbell on the Nolan Show.

  • Alias

    Are there any historical precedents for NI’s system of consociationalism and sectarian rivalry? Excluding a few fragmentary examples, the answer is certainly not enough to make any claims from patterns that are supposedly based on them.

    Political systems that have democratic oppositions typically alternate between the two largest parties in the election of a government, but that isn’t applicable in NI.

    In NI, the relevant example is altering between the two largest parties within one sectarian designation, and not between government and opposition.

    The unique dynamic in play there that is that each sectarian designation is punished with a lesser share of power if it splits its vote between those two parties such that the other sectarian designation becomes the largest party. That system of sectarian rivalry means that the existence of a second party within its designation it is now counterproductive since it simply creates an opportunity for the other sectarian designation to gain more power than it. Once one sectarin party is seen as in the ascendancy, that is curtains for the second party from that designation.

    That’s a new dynamic, and it is why the SDLP is now redundant (as is the UUP).

  • JH

    To be fair, I reckon Mick was alluding to how history has shown that there’s no certainty but uncertainty here, rather than pointing at any particular trend.

    Which is true.

    I just don’t see how the SDLP can come back without a huge culture change in the party. They need to stop talking for a minute and start listening to people. They seem to think they know what’s best regardless of what their electorate think.

  • Independent Ulster


    Well I’m sure Mr Fealty can speak for himself, but his statement below does suggest that history indicates the duarbility of the 2 parties mentioned.

    “Anyone who thinks the SDLP or the UUP are goners are not reading history or human nature correctly”

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    I was digusted with McDevitt this morning but some people love him, he is a “smooth operator” who gets media type approval due to lack of nasty ideology.

    I wish Patsy all the best. I would vote for him.

    He keeps his Irish quiet and I find that disappointing when he could be such a strong voice for the Gaels of Ulster.

    He could so easilty flush out pro-anglicisation elements in Sinn Féin if he just grabbed the tarbh by the horns.

  • The jockeying for position has Im sure begun.
    McDonnell might stand for Leadership but would be foolish to do so.
    Attwood is too attached to Ritchie and might see his job disappear anyway if SDLP opts for Opposition. I think McGlone is absolutely right that he was unbothered by not getting an Executive seat. Frankly it showed that Ritchie would promote a favourite over the Partys Deputy Leader and it is another nail in her Leadership coffin.

    McDevitt is actually a MLA for less than two years and has more enemies than even I have. Actually he has more friends than enemies and is not nearly as senior as he thinks he is. He is just more available, a networker and works twice as hard as anyone else.
    Impossible not to like Maginness but he is too magisterial for Leader.
    Dolores Kelly is supposedly already in the McGlone camp. A possible Deputy Leader, especially if it draws the sting of the “Womens Group”.
    I have a lot of time for Dominic Bradley (autism issues) Pat Ramsey (disability issues) and John Dallat (eveything) and even the new MLAs have a role to play mobilising their branches.

    There are angry branches in North Antrim and Fermanagh-South Tyrone and South Antrim as well as equally angry branches in East Antrim and Strangford. They should be targetting Ritchies close associates like Attwood and McDevitt whose star will fall with the Leader.
    A compromise candidate seems unlikely. The SDLP folks are in no mood to compromise and necessarily a compromise candidate would only be possible if Ritchie stood down…”I have heard the voice of SDLP members and have decided to concentrate on the important (yeah right) work of represnting South Down at Westminster”.

    A salient fact is that the SDLP geths the third highest number of votes in Norn Iron, ahead of the UUP and well ahead of the fifth Party.
    Can it recover ground?
    Yes but its not just about deciding its position in the political spectrum….unashamed Nationalism/Republicanism. Theres nothing inevitable about Sinn Féins rise and rise and rise. Which means that Opposition needs to be considered if only as a means of establishing clear blue water between Sinn Féin and any other electoral rival in Government.

    The position of SDLP in 2011 seems similar to the British labour Party in 1992. Expected to do better, they lost and were condemned to five years…..more years in Opposition ……having prematurely celebrated in Sheffield (?).
    So its not a case of being “goners”. Events dear boy… and all that……should keep us amused to 2015.
    It certainly gives the opportunity for the SDLP to organise (they are organised patchily rather than badly) and to attract new blood. Or bring back “old blood”.
    Brian Feeney and Gerry Murray outside the SDLP rather than in it……is a problem.

    There might just be a few names on Patsy McGlones “head hunting” listwho might have a certain resonance in nationalist circles…….all that Gaelic language and GAA connexions cant be a bad thing.

    Tá cinnte. 😉

  • AntrimObserver

    Brian Feeney back in the Stoops would be a wise move. He’s about the only Stoop who doesn’t pander to unionists.

  • Charminator

    As far as the SDLP are concerned, Patsy may be just what the doctor ordered.

    For once, the party should face the persistent existential threat that hovers over it. The move towards Unionism (Ritchie’s poppy-wearing nonsense and the rest of it) has done nothing to endear the party to mainstream Nationalism/Republicanism. Ritchie’s strategic blunders are many: from her ferocious slap in the face to FF at Labour’s conference to her Fragile McKinney stunt in FST.

    The SDLP’s only future – as I see it – is to reconnect with the broad Nationalist/Republican fold. If that means being less reflexively hostile to SF, so be it. If it means not contesting Westminster seats where there is a risk of it falling to an agreed Orange candidate, so be it too. And, if it means the SDLP radically reexamining their existence and linking up with a Southern party (FF or Lab … or even FG now perhaps), so be it too. Patsy in the past has been favourable about FF, but that door’s surely closed with the party being drip-fed in the South now anyway. Surprisingly, FG under Enda may actually be in the mood for grandstanding on the National issue too. Remember, it’s Collins’ portrait Enda put in the Taoiseach’s office, not Griffith’s (as Bruton had done).

    Patsy’s entry might very well mean the sands have shifted for good. If he can form a strategic partnership for the SDLP, move away from Mag’s Unionist credentials and reorientate the party towards a positive, constitutional, and confident Republican/Nationalist outlook, then we may actually see the beginning of a real challenge to SF (though admittedly not in the near term).

    I’ve been writing on Slugger for some time about the disastrous state of the SDLP and that under Mags it has no future. Some SDLP apparatchiks have spouted the usual ‘blue skies’ nonsense in reply, but the smart money will be on Mags getting it in the neck by the end of the year. The show’s up for her, but at least it leaves her more time to sit as a complete waste of space in Westminster.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    “The SDLP’s only future – as I see it – is to reconnect with the broad Nationalist/Republican fold.”

    I agree BUT ….

    If Margaret wins then surely they will have chosen another path.

    If they go down that route completely they could hold some ground and take some nationalist with them but it would the end of any Irish nationalist credentials.

  • ThomasMourne

    Apart from ‘Alias’ above, why is everyone ignoring the sectarian elephant in the room?

    The SDLP jumps on this when it suits them.

    If the Assembly is to be successful in the future the electorate must move away from sectarian parties.

  • I think Charminator is both Right and Wrong.
    Right in relation to Fine Gael. But it is 2011 and Michael Collins is a safer image than he was in Brutons day.
    Besides Griffiths isnt exactly flavour of the month in politically correct circles.
    I think the SDLP can be more overtly nationalist but still compete against SF in Westminster seats. It has after all under Ritchie sunk as far as it can in Fermanagh South Tyrone.
    I was living in that constituency in 1981 and the obsessional interest in Unity candidates……..McManus, Maguire…..Sands… least contributed to the lack of SDLP organisation in that constituency.
    If Charminator believes that running Ferghal McKinney was a mistake (I dont) …the seeds were already sewn in the 1970s…….there was after all that “democratic deficit” in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    Just as it did at Party Conference, SDLP should not pay any attention to any voices that dont wish it well, from effectively political rivals. It really is that simple.

    The SDLP should do its own “nationalist/republican” thing (no mixed messages).

  • Independent Ulster

    The reason for the SDLP decline is largely down to the Nationalist electorate deciding they would prefer a party that (allegedly) ran a very exciting and sexy terrorist campaign rather than one which pursued dull and boring ballot box without the armalite politics.

    The SDLP have stood good, articulate and well educated candiadtes in elections after election and watched them defeated by less able rivals sporting the strong sniff of semtex.

    Like most political partys in decline, they will go to war with themselves, blame each other and try swtiching their leader at least a couple of times, but will always be cautious not to put the blame where it should go – on a Nationalist electorate willing to support a party who (allegedly) organised murder and mayhem.

  • I have no real trouble with that analysis of the nationalist electorate……but as Rod Stieger might have said……”it doesnt make you a bad person”.
    Ive often made the point that the nationalist electorate has largely endorsed the Irish Republican Armys terrorist campaign. And as the memory fades more people dont seem to mind changing.
    I have no hesitation in calling the terrorist campaign “terrorist”.

    The fact remains that people are entitled to vote for a party (legally on the ballot paper) who they believe is best able to advocate for them.
    While acknowledging “Independent Ulsters” that SDLP has provided good articulate candidates……..and Id go further good “people” …..Id have to say that their mixed message has not provided leadership.

    In saying all of the above, the nationalist community has had as much of a double standard as unionist counterparts or British counterparts.
    Ive seen terrorism and counter-terrorism up close and Im not unduly impressed by either.

  • toker

    Pluralist nationlism. Its hardly a nrew idea it sounds like very “New Ireland Forum” to me and that was in 1984.
    Lets be realistic I don think that SDLP can ever out green or beat SF in tribal politics.Mc glone tried this before over saying that Protestants should learn Irish which looked at best silly and at worst bigoted.I am not saying that that is a total reflection on him.
    He also advocated a merger with FF this is hardly a winning formula .
    What the SDLP really needs to do is to present is a real clear alternative rather than endless boring jibes about the martin and Peter show.Does mcglone really think that a united ireland will benefit people in the north the nhs would dissappear over night,who souhtherners are essentially conservative, they would never pay taxes required..Also who is going to employ the masses of people that are employed by the british state.Lets not also go into the state of the souths economy! A united Ireland would lead to poverty,breakdown and hardship for all.
    They really need policies which appeal to the head rather than the heart, which they have by the way in areas such as North/South Coperation and the green economy.They need to show themselves as a party of government rather than one of a poor opposition.
    .I think opposition maybe the only place for them to present their USPs and differences from SF

  • Not merely their differences from Sinn Fein.

  • Lionel Hutz

    When I look at the SDLP chasing their own shadow, I get frustrated that they are continually trying to figure out what they should be rather than remembering what they are. Trying to find a little gap in the N.I. electoral market is a recipe for disaster, with USPs etc wont work.

    Part of the Sinn Fein and the DUP success is that they appear comfortable with themselves and they are always stronger when they give off that confidence. That was demonstrated by the DUPs electoral performance over the last two years. Rattled by the TUV, they started to scramble around to show that they were tough guy unionists, whilst still trying to appear more moderate. It hurt them. Since then, they just concentrated on what they are and they have grown stronger, against all the odds.

    What I like about Patsy McGlone is that I sense that he is not the type of man to try to show several different faces to please too many people. He appears self-assured. He wont need to try to out-green Sinn Fein. He’s Irish, he is proud of it and that is self-evident. No need for stunts. All he has to do is be himself. I think it will be very difficult for Sinn Fein to attack his Nationalist credentials.

    FJH often talks about the numerous pressure groups invited to preach at SDLP conferences. Having never been to one, I’ll take his word for it. And I can quite believe it. Its all part of a psychology (an inferiority complex) that has had the party believing that they have to be photographed with such people, friends with such people to show that they can ‘unite people.’ I like the idea of simply making the case that it is the SDLP’s values, their founding principles that lay the basis for prosperous Ireland. That doesn’t mean that they can live off past glories, but it means using the past as a reminder of what they can do in the future.

    So Patsy’s little press release ticks a lot of the boxes for me. It doesn’t read like a statement that has been too heavily spun, it doesn’t contain many empty soundbites and cliches. He probably is the right man for the job at this time.

    He’s not going to be a great leader. I don’t believe he has a great presence. But the right man, at the right time.

  • Lionel Hutz puts it very well.
    Patsy McGlones Press Release is obviously his own work. Margaret Ritchies every utterance appears to be the work of a committee.
    Patsy McGlone merely arranged an interview with Diana Rusk and it got into the Irish News on a Monday morning (with the GAA news). The quickest route to the heart of SDLP members and supporters.
    No need for the SDLP Press Office to text a date fora Press Conference to the Norn Iron Press Corps and book a small hall.
    It was THAT simple.
    At this stage Patsy McGlone only has to think about 400 members. And get a working majority on his side.
    Inferiority Complex? Well put. But also there was a certain acceptance that this was the way things “had to be done” because a committee had advised it.
    And really I go on about those numerous pressure groups because it made no sense.
    Two set pieces at Conference…a discussion on Community Relations with Conall McDevitt chairing….Duncan Morrow, Colin Harvey, Norman Hamilton, A GAA figure (no notes available right now on the name) and Dolores Kelly. The reception Morrow got as he left the Hall was an indication that hes actually a better known “face” on the SDLP Conference circuit than “out of town delegates”.
    The second set piece on Irish Unity (mediated by Fearghal McKinney) featured three TDs (one of whom admitted that she had never given Irish Unity any thought until asked to the Conference…….but she felt qualified cos she used to live near Conall McDevitt in Dublin). And of course ex UDP man Davey Adams.
    And squeezed in between was a Fringe Event hosted by something called the Human Rights Consortium and featured Colin Harvey (again!) and Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty.
    Harvey from the Human Rights Commission was urging SDLP help in getting their recommendations thru before they were mothballed.
    My suggestion from the Floor that maybe the HRC should themselves have been working on this a little harder for twelve years…..before asking Alban Magiiness to do it for them……was seemingly well received by actual real SDLP people in the room.

    I mention it again…..YET again…….because the mood of SDLP delegates in November is NOT just about choosing a New Leader.
    The Committe organising the Conference wll be an important player. I dont think that the SDLP delegates will be in the mood for another series of lectures from people who are are Facebook of senior SDLP figures and not friends of the Party itself. One more sighting of Davey and Duncan is likely to add to Patsy McGlones votes.
    Abandoning Norman and Joanne effectively shows the folly of “Outreach” and…..also adds to Patsys votes.

    And the election of a new SDLP Executive takes place in November. Again some on the Committee will be looking to their future and delegates especially if motivated by a Leadership Election might want to actually know who the Exec candidates are supporting for Leadership….which might mean a clear out of Margarets people.
    This means that the Leadership candidates will be taking a keen interest in another ballot paper.
    And means that a lot more than 18 people will be contesting 14 Exec seats.

  • quality

    Not sure why everyone is so down on McDevitt, seems like a hardworker, and actually has ideas and opinions, all of which the SDLP are in dire need of. Certainly not leadership material (at the minute at least), but definitely a valuable member of the party. He appears to come across much better in a smaller group situation than on TV/in committee admittedly.

    As pleasant as it was to see a female candidate take the reigns of a political party in NI, Ritchie’s leadership has been almost a total disaster. I see no evidence of any leadership of the party itself as a whole, while any TV appearances (particularly the UTV election debate, which was basically a personality contest) generally have you hiding behind the sofa.

    McGlone seems like a bright chap, and I’m sure he can’t do any worse – he at least seems to be assertive and confident in himself. I’m sure someone like FJH could advise me better, but he seems to be in that line of small-c conservative nationalists, so its hard for me (as a floating voter) to get entirely worked up about it.

    McDonnell should stay out of it, going from one leader unable to explain dobble jobbing to another would be a disaster. Ideally, he would stand aside shortly (or at least after the next election) and allow for the co-option and profile raise of a newer candidate (as happened with McDevitt), and just be content with his job in Westminster, GP surgery, businesses, properties etc etc.

    Anyway, long story short, they have four years to sort themselves out. For me, the only way to sort themselves out (and this goes for the UUP as well) is to ditch the current leader and form an opposition. While the Ministries must keep money in the party, the idea that they are in and out of government when it suits them does no favours.

    Sinn Féin and the DUP are likely to have periods of weakness, and maybe the electorate will even want a new broom at some point – I fail to see how parties comprising an uneasy, coalition Executive can place themselves as anything distinct.

  • Damian O’Loan


    You misjudge certain issues perhaps best personified in Duncan Morrow.

    If you wish to criticise the good relations “industry”, go ahead, but you seem to credit yourself with the intelligence that informed the parallel attack by the Attorney General, John Larkin. You show none of the nuance he did, none of the sensitivity to the complex reality of civic relations.

    Those complexities are something Duncan Morrow, whose capabilities could easily earn him a higher salary in the private sector, has a grip on. That is, in part, why he commands respect even from those in the DUP, for example, who favour your separatist approach.

    Further, the work done by Morrow and some others in comparable positions – not all, but some – is close to the principle of unity that is core to SDLP identity. A change in leadership will not result in your ideas becoming mainstream.

    It’s odd that this debate hasn’t touched more on the FF/Labour split. That will raise its head. Patsy cannot reach some people because he tied his destiny to a failed fantasy. If he doesn’t favour a merger now, he could easily be accused of shallowness or demagogy. He needs to say why he is the right person to lead now if he wasn’t 18 months ago. He needs to outline a vision. There is a long way to go, plenty of spaces to be filled, which make such fervent support somewhat ridiculous. I wish him all the best with his project, at the moment it’s the most you can realistically do.

    It seems the ‘Anything but Margaret’ campaign will have its members, but they’d do well to ask what they learned from the last ‘Anything but..’ fiasco.

  • “Quality” really makes two points here.
    In relation to Conall McDevitt, he has been the face of the SDLP on many occasions and I think hes honest enough to agree with me that hes maybe been the face of the SDLP on too many occasions….his work ethic is second to none but sometimes standing back a little would have helped.
    Prir to May 2010 he was the only SDLP MLA under 40 and I think the old fogey generation were too content to believe that anything “new” was “good” and Conall is a man of new ideas.
    But I think as Labour fell into New Labour in 1992…..and it didnt quite work…..the same could be said of SDLP in 2011. (the 2010 Westminsters are really our mid term elections).
    McDevitt always strikes me as the Mandelson figure dragging a “conservative” organisation towards Modernity. But the lessons of 1992 were learned in 1997 (and I think McDevitts input in 2015 willbe more significant) particuarly if the SDLP are in Opposition and people are ready .
    I suppose that Patsy McGlone is a man of similar age and background to myself. But its an odd thing that those of us brought up as “social” conservatives have become remarkably at ease in 2011 and the World our children now own.
    We are not quite the dinosaurs that people assume us to be.
    And a quick look at McGlones speech as Deputy Leader last November shows a few things which challenge the notion that he is a “small c” conservative.

    “we cannot allow our future to be equal but seperate”
    “as an Irishman I define my own identity and culture…..I respect diversity and identity and culture of others”.
    “SDLP…in continuing process of re-examining our economic proposals”.

    Not much to worry about there.

  • Damian O’Loan,
    With respect I drew attention to several non-SDLP voices at the SDLP Conference and you have chosen to concentrate on Duncan Morrow.
    I think all reasonable people would have a lot of respect for Duncan. Ive always made that clear …not least because my extended family has reason to be respectful because of the respect and indeed affection he and Dr John Morrow have shown to them (and by extension….me) over a number of years.

    I will happily criticise the Community Relations “industry” but will be respectful of Duncans sincerity.
    But I think it might be reasonable to state that Duncan has only one vote just like the rest of us…..and it may or may not be an SDLP vote.
    What is beyond speculation is that all of those invited to lecture SDLP on its short comings cannot be SDLP supporters……which begs the question even fora “seperatist (!!!) like me……..why listen to all voices except SDLP voices.

    There is a difference between “seperatism” and the “one size fits all” nonsense so beloved by faux lets get alongerists.
    Actually I have mentioned the split (as you describe it) or coalition (as I have described) it of nationalists and Labourite which of course is as much a fault line as generation, geography, gender……the SDLP is surprisingly diverse.

  • keano10

    Giving a view from the SF side of the house (for what it’s worth) I am a little perplexed as to why Conall McDevitt gets such a bad press from within his own party. Then again, perhaps I should’nt be, as it probably sums up the malaise that exists within the present-day SDLP.

    McDevitt is young, articulate and at least gives the pretence of actually really caring about a lot of the daily issues which affect potential voters.

    Ritchie is (effectively) now a goner and McGlone (whatever his policy stance happens to be ) seems to lack any sort of the charisma or personality which seems to be a pre-requiste in this media-driven political age.

    McDonnell for all of his experience is supremely arrogant and is unlikely to win over many floating Nationalist voters outside of his comfort zone of South Belfast. He is from the Eddie McGrady school of old-style SDLP values and i cant seem him regaining the overall Nationalist consensus with what he has said, up to now, at least.

    So young as McDevitt is, he may not be the worst option were he to stand and succeed.

    Knowing the SDLP though, they will probably re-elect Ritchie and just drift onwards and aimlessly for another few years…

  • Neil

    I am a little perplexed as to why Conall McDevitt gets such a bad press from within his own party.

    As FJH put it hes maybe been the face of the SDLP on too many occasions. A wee bit too eager to appear on the tele, Nolan, etc. etc.

  • Well Neil, in fairness I have a a lot of time for Conall McDevitts work ethic and he is more often on TV than the Test Card (do they still have a Test Card?)
    But he is probably very convenient in South Belfast and his colleagues may not have been over-enthusiastic about sharing the load.
    He really does need to step back a little.
    To address “Keano 10s” point……..McDevitt is indeed “young” but in a culture where Yoof is glorified particuarly if they own a Blackberry and know how to switch on a Computer………being Young is no guarantee of Ability.
    I hasten to add that I believe that Conall McDevitt is EXTREMELY Able.

    He is probably over-criticised within the SDLP for being too slick (ie professional). But being “professional” does not mean that he is without having his heart in the right place (not many of our local politicians can claim to have been in refugee camps in Uganda over the past week or so). So fair play to him.

    He has gone places where SDLP politicians dont go. Their only MLA as far as I know who is signed up to that risible Platform for Change nonsense.
    He is I believe an asset to the SDLP but so far……his recent service has been too closely associated with the Margaret Ritchie Praetorian Guard rather than the broader SDLP (membership and supporters).
    A visible committment to a new SDLP Leader and Direction would go a long way to making him extremely popular.
    Conall McDevitt is believed to be wavering. He might throw his hat in the ring. Certainly it would be in SDLPs interest if someone from Belfast and the Labourite wing fought their corner within SDLP.
    But Conall is honest enough to know that this Laedership Election is almost a decade too early for him. And its the wrong circumstances.
    He needs to be seen to serve both wings of the Party. And has the talent to do so. Deputy Leader perhaps?

  • quality

    I would say deputy would be a good position for McDevitt, though not sure if McGlone (assuming he wins) would want someone with that profile lurking over his shoulder. Put him on the SDLP Executive by all means though.

    Dolores Kelly for deputy would be a good shout, particularly given as she has also failed to come out and back Ritchie seemingly.

    God only knows what Attwood is thinking.

  • Charminator

    I think there seems to be a fairly clearly consensus here that Mags may be heading for the door, however, Lionel Hutz and fitzjameshorse have raised one discrete point I do want to think about a little more: summed up by “When I look at the SDLP chasing their own shadow, I get frustrated that they are continually trying to figure out what they should be rather than remembering what they are. Trying to find a little gap in the N.I. electoral market is a recipe for disaster, with USPs etc wont work.”

    I’m not sure they actually have any clear sense of “what they are” because whatever it is they are or were was always an amalgam of diverging interests and philosophies. We have, for example, the Mags quasi-Unionist wing, the Alex Attwood canvassing in Louth for Labour’s Nash wing, the Patsy McGlone and Dr. “Many Jobs” from South Belfast pro-FF wing, and of course, that’s leaving out the golden oldies of Austie Currie (FG) and Lord Fitt (enough said).

    Some of these characters would have joined any party, but SF. Others were loosely aligned by a common civil rights ethos, which is now largely redundant. Some are social democrats and shudder at the thought of being described as “Republican” in any sense. Some favour closer UUP links, others have even raised closer SF links (Declan O’Loan), some even FF (auld Patsy himself).

    This is not a party that CAN remember what it stands for, because there is complete and utter division within re the party’s appropriate “philosophical” compass.

    So, I’m not inclined to agree with simplistic perspectives that the party can suddenly rediscover itself. I’m not sure the party agrees at all on what that ‘self” actually is anymore, which is why, a strategic merger with FG, FF, Labour (whoever really) can provide a clear and forthright statement about the party’s role and future. I fear without it, the SDLP will be reduced to the confines of strategic Unionist voting in South Down, borrowed time in South Belfast, and as for Foyle, can anyone see it lasting indefinitely as an SDLP stronghold.

    The scale of the challenge facing the SDLP is immense. Perhaps Patsy has what it takes to take truly bold decisions about the SDLP’s future. Either way, it will be messy and that is simply a reflection of the reality that the SDLP is not a common party, with a common purpose, it is in many constituencies a grouping of the politically homeless, from disaffected constitutional Republicans, to hard left Socialists and reflective champagne Socialists, to mild mannered “castle Catholics”.

    McGlone certainly does not need to “green” his credentials as fitzjameshorse rightly points out. He’s a Gaelgoir and a constitutional Republican, but his party simply isn’t, and that’s the glitch. There’s a great many perfectly content with the default of thinking “British Labour” when the word Labour’s mentioned and a confused quasi-Unionist vocabulary that could hardly be further removed from the folk of South Armagh or West Belfast. Seamus Mallon made a point of always saying “the North”. Last year, Mags fielded jibes about being relaxed and comfortable with “Northern Ireland”….. Confused, bewildered, and bemused.

    An uphill struggle, but not one without significant reward if the tough internally divisive decisions can be made.

  • Alias

    Very good post, Charminator, and shows how hard it will be to get that “clarity of message” that McGlone referred to.

    There is no such entity as “pluralist nationalism” as that is a straight contradiction. There is only civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism in Europe, with some small regions of pan-nationalism, and neither is there any such thing as “post-nationalism” even if some folks would attribute that label to the SDLP.

    The UK is a de facto nation state for the British nation, so its nationalism and default nationality is British. The hallmark of British nationalism – which is civic nationalism – is that its constituent nations are all sovereign under their shared nationality and not under the banner of the constituent nations. They are four non-sovereign nations sharing one sovereign state.

    The Shinner and Stoop agenda, as designed by Whitehall, is that British constituional structures should be applied to Ireland such that two non-sovereign nations can share one sovereign state. In other words, the Irish nation must convert itself into a non-sovereign nation, giving up its right to self-determination and a sovereign state, and subject itself to the veto of another nation. So both of those political parties have been de-politicized and are no longer nationalist parties. They are essentially ethnic groups that no longer make any claim to a sovereign nation state.

    In reality, there is no difference between the Shinners and Stoops, so it is essentially a contest between them as to which of them can deliver the most for the particular group that they wish to represent. The Shinners outshine the Stoops on that score.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh


    Really crisp post there, you have actually added to my understanding.

    What I would like is an actual SDLP member to describe the glue to me, the glue that keeps a Margaret Ritchie in the same party as Patsy McGlone.

    I cant for the life of me see what commonality binds them.

  • Common Decency.

  • Charminator

    A wee bit on the flippant side fitzjameshorse – there’s quite a serious point here about the lack of a core political philosophy around which the SDLP can agree and move forward.

    As for common decency… a commodity spread fairly thin in most political parties.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh


    Sin é?

    “Commy Decency”? Every concievable variety of southern politics outside of Sinn Féin wrapped up in one party and the one thing that binds them together is “common decency.”

    in other word – they are no SF.

    Sorry, cant buy it – can an SDLP member enlighten me?

  • If theres an SDLP office near you, you could always pop in and ask.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Catholics who think Sinners are hell-bound.

  • Charminator

    fitzjameshorse –
    “If theres an SDLP office near you, you could always pop in and ask.”

    Given the party’s current state, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that there may not, in fact, be an SDLP office near him.

    In any event, I think a broader point has been raised regarding what I’ve called the lack of a core political philosophy, and one which I would hope is more developed than “common decency” (whatever that means). I suspect, however, it does not extend to MoD funded freebie trips to Afghanistan such as that enjoyed by ex-MLA Thomas Burns – a pursuit which I would tentatively suggest, in the minds of the vast majority of Nationalists/Republicans is neither “common” nor “decent”.

    As I said before, “common decency” is a commodity spread fairly thin in most political parties, but I would certain reserve the most heightened and forensic scrutiny to those who claim that “their” party are models of such a virtue! I think some of our friends in this site may be more familiar about the Good Book’s caution of removing the plank from one’s own eye, before the splinter from his brothers….

  • Charminator,
    Im sure you are as familiar with the term “common decency” as the rest of people and Im sure youre no stranger to the concept.
    I have of course myself drawn attention to the likely closure of SDLP offices and the redundancy of staffers.

    Frankly Im not a big fan of Tommy Burns travelling to Afghanistan at MOD expense. Common Decency? No.
    It was much much more…. very Uncommon Decency. He did I suppose have constituents from Aldergrove or Massarene there and the vast majority of nationalists/republicans in South Antrim were horrified by the deaths of young men at Massarene two years ago. Surely it can be seen in that context.

    I would still have voted for Burns in May. (not my constituency).
    Did SDLP lose votes by Burns going on that trip? Probably not.
    Did SDLP gain any “unionist” votes by going on that trip?
    Probably not.

  • Charminator

    Thanks fitzjameshorse.

    Yes, I’ve heard “common decency”. It’s a term with no clear meaning that can be bandied about to mean whatever it’s advocate hopes. A SF supporter might, for example, suggest that their representatives working on the “average industrial wage” is the height of “common decency” in these cash-strapped times.

    And I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether travelling to Afghanistan is “decent”. I don’t at all agree that wasting taxpayers money travelling to a warzone is the decent thing to do, much less so in the circumstances of what is happening out there. Did he exercise the same decency in visiting Afghan victims? The British Army has been in a war in one place or another for most of the last century: visiting such warzones may be decent in your view, but in many people’s view it is poor judgement, all the more so coming from a “Nationalist” political representative. (The “having constituents serving” nonsense is a total red herring: at that rate practically every MP should be taking trips to Afghanistan exercising such “uncommon decency” and, of course, costing the taxpayer quite a bit for it too. Had Tommy paid himself for his little excursion, I could at least understand how it could be viewed as altruistic, but hardly given all he did was board a plane courtesy of the MoD).

    And did it lose votes, you ask? Yes, I would suggest. Cumulatively, it builds into the greater narrative of a party which has lost it’s way, exercising poor judgment and disconnected from the greater Nationalist/Republican population’s sentiment. Perhaps the better question would be did it create a positive image for Burns himself and his party? On that score, I think not.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    According to this poorly google translated report half of the SDLP councillors on Armagh city council voted againist bilingual signage at Navan Fort and half for.

    The issue apart, it shows a party without a coherent ideology.

    You have no idea what the party’s policy is!

  • Im not sure what your own view on bi-lingual signs are Mr MacBhloscaidh..
    I tend to refer ro the place as Eamain Macha myself. But I can certainly do the bi-lingual thing and call it Navan Fort also.
    Your point about SDLP councillors not voting for bi lingual signs is somewhat undermined by your own relunctance to use the bi lingual forms. You use the English form only.

    So we are left with some confusion about your own policy.

  • …and sometimes I even spell it right.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh


    Wrote in English, not bilingually. My policy is irrelevent – I am not a public rep or standing for election.

    My point stands, how does a person know what the SDLP policy is?

    You have to question the individual candidate. Surely electoral success depends on a little more certainety?

  • Well Im sure youre looking forward to being canvassed when you can ask this very important question.
    Generally speaking a Party will produce a manifesto and therein policies are contained.
    Exactly how big and wide ranging a manifesto should be, I frankly dont know but I suspect if a SDLP manifesto was as big as a telephone book, youd still find a “question”.