Is Abrasive Alasdair the cure for this ailing patient?

The vote is in and the SDLP have gone for Alasdair as the man to revive the fortunes of a party seemingly on the verge of permanent minority party status (at best) within northern nationalism.

The party faithful clearly opted to put their faith in the only leader with a successful electoral record. Understandable, not least since the former favourite, Patsy McGlone, is elected to a constituency where he would have expected to remain under a Sinn Fein shadow with its three Sinn Fein MLAs and Martin McGuinness as MP.

McDonnell ironically talked about his plans to ‘unite the party’ in Eamonn’s pre-contest interview as it remains evident in Eamonn’s latest tweet that many in the party loathe McDonnell, confirming that he remains the most divisive figure in what was already a fracturing party. Whether those strongly opposed to McDonnell have the stomach to remain inside an already disillusioned camp, now that the new sheriff has been elected, remains to be seen.

His own selfish electoral needs will likely require him taking a strategic move further away from nationalist ground in order to retain his position as MP in what looks like the very difficult terrain of a new constituency. South Belfast is hardly the bellwether for northern nationalist sentiment, however, and it is in this regard that disillusionment in areas like McGlone’s Mid-Ulster may set in more rapidly.

In his favour, he is single-minded and not given to be dissuaded by fears that leadership initiatives will rock the boat within the party.

Ironically, as many on Slugger- and elsewhere- have sought to make the unconvincing case that Sinn Fein’s 13% plus share of the Presidential vote recently was a disaster, what the election did show was that Sinn Fein are better positioned than ever before to articulate a republican position to an all-Ireland audience, something which resonates with a northern nationalist audience increasingly of a view to regarding the SDLP as an irrelevance, holed out in geographical pockets of the north where Sinn Fein has yet to appropriately address deficiencies with regard to candidate selection which, once addressed, would see off the SDLP. 

Whether McDonnell can be the SDLP leader who reverses its political and electoral fortunes remains to be seen. But progress on an all-Ireland dimension for the party, well beyond the barely credible existing position of having southern friends in all parties, will likely be a key determining factor in deciding whether there is a future for the SDLP in the post-Peace Process era.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin,

    We’re talking about the SDLP here. Events at Drumcree nearly 20 years ago, and SF’s role in them, is hardly relevant ?

  • SDLP supporter

    Sorry I’m a bit late (2 days) catching up on this discussion. I don’t have time to contribute to SOT much these days. It’s a comment made by Comrade Stalin at 9:38pm on Saturday, 5 November 2011 as follows:

    “I don’t agree with that, I have found SDLP members to be nakedly sectarian. Don’t confuse the SDLP’s willingness to exploit the fear of the non-nationalist locals having a Sinn Fein representative as being indicative of some sort of non-sectarian view. As an example, I was following a revealing discussion over on Facebook a year or so ago about the RC church child abuse scandals. An SDLP councillor, whom I won’t name out of charity, argued that the Archbishop of Canterbury had no basis giving an opinion on the abuse scandals given what the CoE had done to Ireland, penal laws and all that. Quite breaktaking.”
    Whatever about CS’s opinion about SDLP members being ‘nakedly sectarian’ (I’ve never met one in over 41 years membership), his comment about the SDLP stance on the Catholic Church child abuse scandal is completely wrong, is totally unfair and he should have the decency to withdraw.

    It was the SDLP which brought the motion leading to the setting up of an Inquiry on to the floor of the Assembly (Hanna and Durkan) when other parties, for various reasons, couldn’t or wouldn’t table it. See this:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8338850.stm

  • CS, I was responding to comments from Chris and others – just trying to be helpful.

    It was an SDLP politician who first alerted me to the Irish government’s direct but secret role in day-to-day decision making in policing here and how the SDLP availed of it. I simply followed the trail and Dublin kindly provided me with a copy of that briefing. Do you suppose the APNI is (still) unaware of these secret actions?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Nevin, I have no desire to contribute to your latest over-egged hobby horse. Sorry.

    SDLP Supporter, the SDLP’s sectarianism is of a rather quiet, reserved kind. People don’t make speeches saying “I hate prods” but many – not all – of the members and supporters I’ve come across see the country as firmly divided between “them” and “us”. That’s probably why the party is almost exclusively mono-religious. I think they had a single Protestant councillor a few years back.

  • CS, you asked me a question, I answered it civilly and asked you a follow-up. Can’t you respond in kind?

  • SDLP supporter

    Comrade Stalin

    Why don’t you grow up and at least try to address my response instead of throwing out more stupid allegations? Do you accept that it was the SDLP which took on the child abuse issue in the Assembly? Incidentally, in that debate in fairness to the other parties, all speeches in that debate, with one exception, were fair and reasonable.

    In my book, sectarianism in NI is the poisonous mixture of religion and politics. Whatever about its other manifest
    faults, the SDLP has never done that. Isolating people out in a head count to prove my case is tokenism, but in my neck of the woods (South Belfast), the SDLP had a councillor, Dorita Field, a few years back who was certainly not a Catholic. I could mention people like Ivan Cooper, a Lay Preacher, and John Turnley. The guy who conducted the count for Leadership on Saturday, and who does all the counts, is most definitely not a Catholic. He’s a private individual, so I won’t name him.

    In my own branch, there are at least a dozen members from a non-Catholic background but, as I say, it doesn’t do any good to name-check.

    All I am saying is, and there’s some people in the SDLP I maybe don’t like, I have never heard any member, in public or private, making a deliberately sectarian remark.

    To my mind, CS, you are an obsessive with too much time on your hands. If you look up the definition of the ‘s’ word in the dictionary, you’ll find it describes you exactly.

  • SDLP supporter, I sometimes wonder if the sectarianism word with its mainly religious connotation best describes the tussle here between those who favour the continuence of NI’s membership of the British UK state or the formation of an Irish UI state. British and Irish resonate racism which sounds much worse than sectarianism. Both -isms IMO are all too frequently used to bash opponents with.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Comrade Stalin believes that if you are frame your politics with a view on whether you remain in the United Kingdom or if you want a United Ireland, you are sectarian. Essentially that it comes down to.

    In politics, there is an us and them. For the SDLP, thats as far as it goes – a political level. The SDLP are an Irish Political Party. I know of no successful political party that does not frame its politics in terms of what is best for a particular nation. The SDLP and Sinn Fein look for what is best for Ireland. DUP and UUP look for what is best for the United Kingdom (Although that is becoming less and less the case).

    The Alliance party are a Northern Irish party. They are politically Northern Ireland Nationalists, so too are the DUP in reality and I guess that this is where the elctoral challange on the “them” side will be fought as the unionist people have dismissed the UUP’s efforts to present truly Unionist outlook.

  • Alan N/Ards

    SDLP supporter

    “In my own branch, there at least a dozen members from a non catholic background”

    What exactly is a non catholic? Do you inclide Anglicans in this list of people who are non catholic? I know many anglicans who consider themselves to be catholic.

  • SDLP supporter

    Ah, come on Alan N/Ards, don’t be silly. You sound like one of the hardy annuals corresponding in the Belfast Telegraph letters column.

    If members of the Anglican Communion want to call themselves Catholics, it’s all right by me, though I also understand from my CoI Canon relation that the Church of Ireland is, for the most part, low church, and would not be comfortable in describing themselves as ‘Catholic’ unlike their high church confreres in England..

    Likewise, for me ‘Roman Catholics’ might only be those who recognise the authority of the Pope of Rome and who actually live in the Eternal City and who accept him as successor of St. Peter and Christ’s Vicar on Earth..

    I would suggest that the vast majority of the public are quite clear in their minds when reference is made to ‘the Catholic Church’ and . ‘the Pope’. I once had a pedantic friend who informed me that there were other “Popes” in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria and that I had to be precise.

    Just to confirm, for me it’s the 80+ year old theologian German guy in the white outfit, who plays the piano to concert standard and who reputedly enjoys smoking a surreptitious few fags in the evening…

    You say potato, I say potato…

  • Comrade Stalin

    SDLP Supporter,

    Of course I accept that the SDLP brought the motion before the assembly. It’s not germane to my point, which is that my experience of SDLP members has been that quite a few of them are sectarian in perspective.

    In my book, sectarianism in NI is the poisonous mixture of religion and politics.

    Religion does not have to come into it, at least not overtly.

    That remark you made the other day (I think it was you ? If it wasn’t you then it was another SDLP supporter), about how there could be no alliances with the UUP because they were such bastards from 1921-1972. I’d call that an unambiguously sectarian remark. You’ve written off forming a relationship with a group of people on the basis of actions that the people representing the party today had no part in.

    Whatever about its other manifest faults, the SDLP has never done that.

    Of course it has. The SDLP’s exposition of the Anglo Irish Agreement was brazen and unapologetically sectarian.

    Lionel:

    Comrade Stalin believes that if you are frame your politics with a view on whether you remain in the United Kingdom or if you want a United Ireland, you are sectarian. Essentially that it comes down to.

    You are mostly accurate but a bit incomplete. It was a good try though 🙂

    It’s not as simple as that. In order to qualify as sectarian you have to harbour some degree of prejudice and suspicion about “the other lot”. Wanting a united Ireland, or the union, by itself does not make you sectarian. Framing your politics around the constitutional question makes you a nationalist (either a British nationalist or an Irish nationalist). The two go closely together but are not the same.

    I’d pick you up on this part :

    The SDLP and Sinn Fein look for what is best for Ireland.

    The SDLP do not run in elections in any part of Ireland except for NI. Doesn’t it therefore follow that the SDLP are NI-centric in the same way that the DUP are ? I guess the key difference is that the SDLP try to create artificial all-Ireland stuff where it does not exist ..

  • SDLP supporter

    CS, a chara, mon ami

    I wasn’t me who made that remark about the UUP and I doubt if there are two people registered under that name. So withdraw.

    Of course, religion doesn’t have to come into it to make an issue sectarian but, in the NI context, it almost invariably does.

    “The SDLP’s exposition of the Anglo Irish Agreement was brazen and unapologetically sectarian.”

    Friend, you need to stand that up with facts. I don’t think you will be able to, in the view of most of the people looking at this site.

    CS, you really need to get out more or you’ll drive yourself nuts. Or as my old mate Baudelaire said:

    il faut vous enivrer sans trêve.
    Mais de quoi?
    De vin, de poésie, ou de vertu, à votre guise.
    Mais enivrez-vous.

    Get drunk and stay that way.
    On what?
    On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
    But get drunk.

  • Alan N/Ards

    SDLP supporter

    “We believe in one catholic and apostolic Church.” This is what anglicans believe when they recite the Nicene creed. It doesn’t make them Roman catholics like the vast majority of SDLP supporters but it does make them part of the universal church.

    To be honest I hate the term “non catholics” as I would hate the term “non protestant” or indeed “non anything”. It has a ring of “just not as good as” or “inferior”. Are the dozen or so members of your branch who are “non catholic” members of the coi, presbyterian,
    methodist churches, Could you give me a breakdown of their allegiances. By the way I actually voted SDLP at the last assembly elections. I did this because I liked the candidate in Strangford and I liked Margaret Ritchie. McDonnell won’t get my vote.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Friend, you need to stand that up with facts. I don’t think you will be able to, in the view of most of the people looking at this site.

    CS, you really need to get out more or you’ll drive yourself nuts. Or as my old mate Baudelaire said:

    If I have to deal with incisive rebuttals like yours then I’d agree that your point about why I bother is probably well made.

  • SDLP supporter

    CS

    You come on this site scattering allegations like confetti and, when asked to stand one up, you go into a strop. You said

    “The SDLP’s exposition of the Anglo Irish Agreement was brazen and unapologetically sectarian.”

    I just asked you to corroborate, that’s all. And you didn’t.

    Alan

    Thanks for voting SDLP. I honestly wouldn’t dream about asking people, some of whom I barely know, about their specific denomination. I think it would be naff and I’d wonder what they thought of me. I just know from reference to schools, etc. that they are not your standard NI RC.

    I’ve just remembered: it’s 30 years ago now, but there was a daughter of a CoI Archbishop of Dublin in the branch, Dr. Simms, I think.

    Here’s a joke to end with (courtesy of Tim McGarry at the SDLP Conference dinner on Saturday night.) “The Pope and Paisley are about the same age, but if it turned out the Pope had a son, he couldn’t be more embarrassed than Big Ian is by Junior.”

  • “to qualify as sectarian you have to harbour some degree of prejudice and suspicion about ‘the other lot'”

    CS, that would appear to qualify all party activists as sectarian. In this place, there are many ‘lots’ 🙂

    The SDLP and SF set their politics in an ‘island of Ireland’ context, much like their counterparts in Ireland.

  • Lionel Hutz

    CS,

    I would agree with you’re objective definition. To have any of these “ism”s you have either view or treat them less favourably. I have never heard any SDLP member (and I’m still not a member) demonstrate. I’ve heard them speak about the politics with disdain. But thats a seperate matter.

    Now you might now a friend of a friend or whatever who is sectarian. but to go on to say that the SDLP is a sectarian party is nonsense.

    On your other point, being only in N.I. does not make you as N.I. centric as the DUP. The DUP are N.I. nationalist because they show little solidarity with British people. They consider themselves economically right wing but tore up the UUP because of their Tory links.

    The SDLP dont run in the Republic for a number – besides being incapable of doing it. Whether you see it as nonsense or not, the party see their role in the national politik as being persuaders for unity in the north. They think they can present a present a political consensus from the major southern parties that would be disrupted by playing party politics with them.

    I for one think it is counterproductive to bring party politics into the united ireland agenda. Look at whats happening with Sinn Fein. They have induced a fear amongst the vast majority of southerners that a United Ireland would see some contagion of SF absolute style nationalism and a feeling amongst northerners that they are forgotten. A new mental partition.

    The SDLP may have done little of late on the UI front since their influencw has waned, the potential of its approach is far greater

  • Comrade Stalin

    SDLP Supporter:

    I just asked you to corroborate, that’s all. And you didn’t.

    OK. Here’s why the AIA was/is sectarian :

    (1) the idea was to go over the heads of the unionists rather than try to reach agreement in them. “we’ll sort ourselves out” = sectarian

    (2) the theory was that the Irish government should be some sort of guarantor of the interests of NI nationalists (“us”) with no regard to the interests of unionists (“them”) = sectarian

    The AIA at its core was about dividing communities. Not uniting them. That is why it was sectarian.

    Nevin:

    CS, that would appear to qualify all party activists as sectarian. In this place, there are many ‘lots’

    You know full well when you hear an NI politician talking about “them” that it has a deeper meaning than, say, a Labour politician talking about Conservatives. It is the same use of “them” that you’ll hear in other European countries when people are debating illegal immigrants, for example.

    Lionel:

    The DUP are N.I. nationalist because they show little solidarity with British people.

    I do not see how it follows that someone is “NI nationalist” because they show solidarity with the British people. To be honest, it’s a bit of an oversimplification of unionism. Ulster nationalism is getting a bit closer to the mark, and a lot of the time that is not about showing solidarity with Britain at all.

    Whether you see it as nonsense or not, the party see their role in the national politik as being persuaders for unity in the north.

    The national politik in the RoI does not discuss unity. It never comes up during political debates. Prioritizing constitutional issues in this way is a northern phenomenon.

  • Lionel Hutz

    CS,

    Ulster nationalism is getting a bit closer to the mark, and a lot of the time that is not about showing solidarity with Britain at all.

    Thats what I mean. The DUP show liitle or no solidarity with Britain. Their politics is just about N.I, even to the detriment of the UK as a whole – therefore, the reality is they are N.I. Nationalists.

    The national politik in the RoI does not discuss unity. It never comes up during political debates. Prioritizing constitutional issues in this way is a northern phenomenon.

    Thats neither here no there. Just because something doesn’t form part of the daily politics doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t there. But of course its become largely a northern phenomenon. It still doesn’t change the fact that in order for the SDLP’s agenda (or Sinn Fein’s for that matter) to come to fruition, they have to bring about a United Ireland. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t come up in the daily debates. Its pretty much a settled issue in the south. They want it but they’ll wait until the Northerners get it sorted out

  • SDLP supporter

    Comrade Stalin

    Your charge was:

    “The SDLP’s exposition of the Anglo Irish Agreement was brazen and unapologetically sectarian.”

    You attempt to validate your charge by stating the following:

    “(1) the idea was to go over the heads of the unionists rather than try to reach agreement in them. “we’ll sort ourselves out” = sectarian

    (2) the theory was that the Irish government should be some sort of guarantor of the interests of NI nationalists (“us”) with no regard to the interests of unionists (“them”) = sectarian

    The AIA at its core was about dividing communities. Not uniting them. That is why it was sectarian.”

    My response is as follows:

    1. Yes, the AIA between the two governments, and supported by Alliance and SDLP, but opposed by the Provos and the unionists, did go over the unionists’ head. The reason for that was that, rather like Netanyahu and Israel today, the unionists, having been given the guarantee of the maintenance of constitutional status of NI within the UK in the 1949 Act, unless a majority decided otherwise, attempted to parlay that into a unionist veto on all political development and progress between the UK and the Irish Republic. In other words, ‘a million unionists’ trump 55 million other people. That was a ludicrously arrogant stance and it deserved to be undermined. Remember, even the “moderate” UUP, in their manifesto for the 1982 Prior Assembly, explicitly ruled out powersharing with even the SDLP. As Ken Maginness told them at the time (in private), they were nuts to reject power-sharing. I remember Hume telling me that even in the Darlington Talks (1979), the then-unionist leaders, West and Paisley, rejected Hume’s offer of power-sharing for one term only and then, at the end of that, they could have the option of reverting to majority rule. Hume was betting that unionist voters would see that power-sharing was the only way forward. Having been treated with contempt, he admitted that he hardened his heart against them and began work on the AIA.
    2. Yes, northern nationalists did get a guarantee from the Irish government, the end of the ‘nationalist nightmare’ (Peter Barry) because, up to then, the only people who had the guarantee, and who were sitting tight, were the unionists. After the AIA, Hume repeatedly offered to work to have it set it aside on the basis that neither side would have a guarantee and that all sides would rely on the strength of their mandate.

    CS, I always had the vague impression that you were an Alliance supporter. I think you’re actually a hard-line unionist. If you check back, Alliance at the time made several excellent arguments as to why the AIA was not dividing the communities.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Yes, the AIA between the two governments, and supported by Alliance and SDLP,

    Alliance’s support for the AIA came to be seen as a mistake, and must be taken in the context of the then party leader’s subsequent transition to a career as a Fine Gael politician. Oliver Napier and others opposed this position but if memory serves, Cushnahan had declared his support before there was an opportunity to seriously discuss it.

    The reason for that was that, rather like Netanyahu and Israel today, the unionists,

    I don’t disagree that the unionists were being bastards. That does not justify the fact that the SDLP adopted a sectarian approach.

    The thaw in unionism was melting by the time the mid 1980s came. The Anglo Irish Agreement backed them up against a wall, it set things back by at least five years.

    That was a ludicrously arrogant stance and it deserved to be undermined.

    Clearly not, because the GFA, which the Hume supporters all claimed were the culmination of his life’s work (pah) specifically upheld the unionist view of the constitutional position of NI. The unionist veto is now enshrined in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and supported by the SDLP, as well as everyone else.

    The Good Friday Agreement represents, to some extent, the SDLP abandoning the sectarian approach that led it to support the AIA.

    You skipped over the 1992 Brooke talks. Which were progressing nicely due to the strenuous efforts of Mark Durkan, but collapsed when Hume pulled the SDLP out after he decided he would rather do a deal with the Provos than the unionists. Again, I’d call that sectarian. And I suspect quite a few of the SDLP leading lights at the time saw it in the same way.

    CS, I always had the vague impression that you were an Alliance supporter. I think you’re actually a hard-line unionist.

    See, this is what I mean when I say “sectarian”. You don’t like what I said, you can’t accept what I’m saying, so I get painted into a corner as one of “them”.

    If you must know, I really don’t mind the idea of a united Ireland at all, happy to talk about that idea any day of the week. I couldn’t be a hard line unionist if I tried. I can’t stand the monarchy, I’m an atheist, and overall I despise nationalism or patriotism of any kind.

    But I feel quite strongly that it is more important to unite people. No point in changing the constitutional stuff around until we are sure that whenever changes are made, with due consent, that we don’t have a civil war.

    If you check back, Alliance at the time made several excellent arguments as to why the AIA was not dividing the communities.

    Alliance made a lot of decisions it came to regret. Such as allowing the party leader to accept a peerage, for one.

  • SDLP supporter

    CS
    You’re such a sorehead, a kind of Continuity or Dissident Alliance. If you’re still active in Alliance (which I doubt), you must drive the mostly sensible people in that party daft.

    You make several statements like

    “The thaw in unionism was melting by the time the mid 1980s came.”

    Are you crazy? From Paisley and Molyneaux? You will not be able to produce the slightest shred of evidence to back up that assertion. Did you ever deal with the guys, as I unfortunately had to do on a few occasions over relatively minor matters? Paisley was/still is a complete and utter bigot in every way and Molyneaux was just inert, practically comatose but who clearly felt that any Catholic or non-unionist was inferior.

    Ken Maginness was the only sensible one, admitting that he would advocate grabbing Sunningdale with both hands if it ever became available again (which he knew it wouldn’t) and pointing out the simple truth that every time the unionists walked away from the table they had to come back to a worse scenario from their point of view

    You also, perhaps deliberately, confuse the unionist guarantee (that the status of NI will not change without the consent of a majority of people, etc), with the unionist veto which was that “there will be no political development of any sort in NI unless we say so”. The sheer arrogance inherent in that veto had to be trumped and it was.

    Remember, well in the 1980s “progressive” UUP people like Harold McCusker were still arguing that if a majority in NI ever voted to leave the Union, he would demand that the border be re-drawn, again and again, in ever smaller areas. To her credit, Thatcher told them where to get off on that one.

    In fact, one of them (I’ve lodged the paper in the Linenhall Library) wrote saying that a united Ireland could only come about with the consent of a majority of nationalists and a majority of unionists. I pointed out to him that, if the population ever got to 80:20 nationalist: unionist, then 10% +1 unionists would have a veto over everyone else. Crazy stuff.

    The unionists now have no veto in NI: they are in the same position as everyone else and everyone’s vote is of equal value.

    There wasn’t a cigarette paper between Hume and Durkan’s position and Durkan, as an unelected 32 year old at the time would have had no negotiating authority at the time.

    I look forward to your exposition as how things could have been done at the time and all the wrong turnings the Alliance Party took. For example, poor John Alderdice was fed up getting stuffed electorally by Robbo: so he, quite logically, took a peerage. What’s to complain about as he was a thorough-going unionist? Also, are you hinting that John Cushnahan was some kind of Fine Gael fifth columnist who sold the pass? Do tell, pleeeeze.
    .

  • Comrade Stalin

    SDLP Supporter :

    You’re such a sorehead, a kind of Continuity or Dissident Alliance. If you’re still active in Alliance (which I doubt), you must drive the mostly sensible people in that party daft.

    I often have to specifically disclaim that I’m representative of Alliance, as I often say, if you want to know what the party’s official view is you need to ask them. But if you think I’m substantially divergent from the view of many of their members then you do not know much about the party. That’s not surprising given the way many nationalists of your vintage wrote off Alliance as merely diluted unionists from the time when the party was founded. The party has changed quite a lot from its origins as a unionist offshoot. Supporters such as myself vigorously defend the idea that the party has a distinct vision rather than simply being an iteration of an existing tribal position.

    Are you crazy? From Paisley and Molyneaux? You will not be able to produce the slightest shred of evidence to back up that assertion.

    On the contrary, here you go.

    (I’m selectively grabbing bits of your last post, the parts I’m skipping are the bits I broadly agree with or can’t dispute)

    Ken Maginness was the only sensible one, admitting that he would advocate grabbing Sunningdale with both hands if it ever became available again (which he knew it wouldn’t)

    Yes, at the time Ken seemed to be the guy they sent out whenever they wanted to look sensible. But Sunningdale did become available again, in the form of the GFA which really was substantially a rehash of the same thing. The core idea of the GFA is reconciliation through power sharing and a recognition of parity of esteem, that idea was also the core of Sunningdale (and is diametrically different from what I call Humeism).

    Remember, well in the 1980s “progressive” UUP people like Harold McCusker were still arguing that if a majority in NI ever voted to leave the Union, he would demand that the border be re-drawn, again and again, in ever smaller areas. To her credit, Thatcher told them where to get off on that one.

    Yeah, unionists can be batshit crazy at times. That still applies. I can’t defend them. Part of the reason why we have an Agreement today is because Tony Blair stood up for them and wouldn’t take any of their shit. But the other part, as I said earlier, is that very slowly they’ve come to a realization that intransigence damages them more than anything else. The effect of the present implementation of the Agreement is that SF are somewhat neutered and nobody is doing backroom deals with the British over the NI constitution, accordingly the union is rather more stable now than it was ten years ago.

    The unionists now have no veto in NI: they are in the same position as everyone else and everyone’s vote is of equal value.

    But that was true before. It was declared as part of Sunningdale. Most unionists accept it, although I’d say there’s still a substantial batshit crazy wing who would break the guns out of a referendum determined to end partition.

    I look forward to your exposition as how things could have been done at the time and all the wrong turnings the Alliance Party took. For example, poor John Alderdice was fed up getting stuffed electorally by Robbo: so he, quite logically, took a peerage.

    I don’t keep a list in my head of Alliance mistakes, although I can give you a personal opinion on anything you want to ask me about.

    Alderdice’s decision to take a peerage was an attempt by the Liberal Democrats in collusion with the British at the time to have a sensible voice in Parliament, and that is how it was sold back then. The trouble is that a peer in the House of Lords is about as effective as a catflap in an elephant house.

    There wasn’t a cigarette paper between Hume and Durkan’s position and Durkan

    Yes there was, Hume frequently took decisions on his own counsel without consulting anyone in the party.

    , as an unelected 32 year old at the time would have had no negotiating authority at the time.

    Durkan didn’t have plenipotentary powers (obviously) but I’d understood that he led the SDLP delegation in the Brooke talks. As with the GFA, Hume never bothered himself with real negotiating work. He much preferred to do shady secret one to one deals with key players behind the scenes.

    What’s to complain about as he was a thorough-going unionist?

    I’ve never heard Alderdice say anything in public or private that make me believe he is a unionist. He’s very much of the type that FJH likes to disparage as “getalongerist”.

    Also, are you hinting that John Cushnahan was some kind of Fine Gael fifth columnist who sold the pass? Do tell, pleeeeze.

    I wouldn’t say that. But I would say that his support for the AIA was a mistake. I never got to hear him justify it subsequently (Alliancers seldom talk about the past, fittingly enough) but my own guess that his plans to move South may have been part of his motivation. Of course, I have no evidence to support that theory.