SDLP needs a story that makes its opponents more uncomfortable than it does themselves..

Now here’s an interesting one. Almost as interesting for where it comes from as to what it suggests… Nigel Dodds is having a go at the SDLP for taking up a number of cases concerning the fate of dissident Republicans, in particular that of Gerry McGeough… The News Letter reports:

The DUP deputy leader questioned the advice being given to SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and added: “Gerry McGeough was convicted of the attempted murder of my party colleague Sammy Brush. McGeough plotted to gun him down in his home. He had no regard for Sammy Brush’s human rights or the family that would have been left devastated had his evil enterprise been successful.

“It is outrageous that the leader of the SDLP should be demanding the release of such a person from prison.”

Well, may be. Mr McGeough’s case is an interesting one. Estranged from the mainstream Republican organisation in Northern Ireland he was arrested as he left the count centre for the Assembly elections of 2007 “in the full glare of the media”. He polled a mere 1.8% of the total vote.

Unusually for the post Belfast Agreement era, McGeough was then tried and convicted for the attempted murder of Mr Dodds’ party colleague, Cllr Sammy Brush back in 1981.

As for the SDLP, a party spokeswoman told the News Letter:

“…while paramilitary activists showed no respect for the human rights of their victims, it is our belief that not only are there no points to be scored by repaying wrong with wrong, but some principles transcend the desire to be popular.”

The spokeswoman said they believed the treatment of the pair “contravenes aspects of their human rights” in the pursuit of political expedience.

“Marian Price’s treatment in particular is unacceptable — unable to examine the alleged intelligence provided to the government against her, forced to accept legal advice from a government-appointed barrister who is not allowed to tell her what she is accused of, suffering serious mental health problems as a result of her largely solitary confinement and falling prey to increasing physical frailty, while her previous Royal Pardon appears to have been conveniently shredded.

“Gerry McGeough’s incarceration, so shortly after he disavowed Sinn Féin and challenged them electorally, raises concerns that there may be a politically-motivated subtext to the circumstances which precipitated his current situation.”

The spokeswoman added: “We would be failing those people who vote for our principles as defenders of human rights if we did not extend those principles to all those whose human rights appear to have been left unprotected.”

Slugger has heard complaints about the SDLP, particularly in Derry, championing the cause of dissidents like Marian Price from Sinn Fein sources also. Alisdair McDonnell holds on to his seat with the help of a small but significant number of Protestant voters.

Interestingly, although it still shows up on the google search, there no longer appears to be any reference to the Petition to free Gerry McGeough…

In the leadership election last November Mr McDonnell made no secret of the fact that he had (to borrow Mike Nesbitt’s term) ‘no big idea’ about where he might take the party. Organisation is what he pitched the membership and organisation was what they bought.

But both minor parties have been floundering and finding it difficult to get any purchase in public debate. There’s a noticeably local feel to the SDLP Press Office’s output with mostly McDonnell and Pat Ramsey in Derry taking the lead on the strange ‘long after the fact’ imprisonment of a select number of ‘stood down’ dissidents.

Sometime in or around 2005, I recall Alistair Campbell telling the Tories that if they wanted to turn their fortunes round they should do what he’d done to them in the run in to the 1997 general election and cause them as much trouble as they could.

If, and there is suspicion within Sinn Fein that the motive here is primarily political at making Sinn Fein less comfortable in Derry, where that party appears to be losing control of the streets to their former comrades in RAAD, it’s an odd one indeed.

Sinn Fein would dearly love to swap electorates with the SDLP. It’s been a point of some frustration that despite providing a deputy leader and a deput First Minister, Derry remains politically in the hands of the SDLP. Hume’s legacy has proven more enduring than anything bequeathed by Gerry Fitt in Belfast.

There is nothing wrong with pointing to the oddness of the arrests. But in the absence of any overarching theme to Mr McDonnell’s leadership, they risk being defined by it.

And there is no shortage of well resourced opponents who will go the extra mile to take the little the electorate have left them by pushing things that way.

Sinn Fein want that Foyle Westminster seat, and the DUP would dearly love to clean out the SDLP leader of his seat in South Belfast. A double whammy for team OFMdFM, if you like.

Organisation alone cannot save the SDLP, not least from its own campaigning ‘enthusiasms’. It desperately needs a story. Preferably one that makes its opponents more uncomfortable that it does itself.

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  • No Party should go looking for an issue..or “story” as Mr Fealty puts it.
    Issues tend to find Parties and funnily enough in this decade of Half Centenaries an old favourite is raising its head…Civil Rights.
    Some “rights” are more popular than others and I would not expect the rights of prisoners to be any more popular with the DUP than the rights of Victims would be with Sinn Féin.
    There are hardly any “votes” in speaking up for Marian Price. Her supporters are dissidents and unlikely to vote anyway.
    Which funnily enough was exactly the situation when SDLP was campaigning for internees, Gerry Conlon etc in the 1970s and 1980s.
    Did SDLP get any Provo votes?
    No.
    But increasingly there is a connexion to the 1960s. Every issue……victims, prisoners, disappeared, Irish language, womens rights, gay rights, abuse victims, public sector, benefit cuts ….can be interpreted as civil rights issues. It may not actually be a Political Party in search of an issues but rather issues and the people adversely affected by issues to look for someone to speak for them.

    Now of course people may agree or disagree with that asseesment. And perhaps some would argue that the DUPs record on a broad range of civil rights is a good one. Maybe some would argue the same about the Sinn Féin.
    A reasonable person might conclude that SDLP has a better record on civil rights. Thats for others to decide.
    The great thing about civil rights is that they are not all “popular rights” and the challenge is consistently advocating rights that we ourselves might not think as pressing as others.

    Id fully expect the SDLP to start using……to continue using the language of “civil rights”. Not least because it touches a nerve with its opponents.

  • exsdlp

    Dear SDLP

    Not one of your voters – not a single one – gives a toss what happens to Marion Price and other so called dissidents.

    Wise up

  • Absolutely correct.
    Thats the whole point.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m lost as to where the SDLP are going on this. This is not merely a matter of a locally elected MLA or MP providing representation to a constituent; this is a party leader pushing a policy initiative. I fear they are making a grave mistake. Nationalists find the dissidents, and those who give succour to them through political speeches, to be abhorrent. It cannot be the case that they feel that such people need political representation.

    I could get it if there was some sort of principled crusade against the abuse of powers in these cases. But it’s clearly not that, as a number of other cases along these lines have recently come up, yet on not one single occasion have the SDLP spoken up. One example which springs to mind is the Fusco case but in any case the SDLP have generally been supportive of the police/DPP Historical Enquiries Team initiative which has a pretty obvious end objective of securing prosecutions on stalled cases from the past.

    The blunt reality – and probably a controversial one – is that any paramilitaries who have committed any offences in the past have a choice. I’m going to sound faintly like a fascist here, but I’m afraid that dissidents should understand that if there is a peep of trouble out of any of them, the “gentleman’s agreement” that exists will be deemed to have been broken, their licenses will be revoked and there will be prosecutions taken against them to get them out of circulation. I believe most people, nationalist, unionist or otherwise, support and indeed demand this action against people who are making anti-police speeches to crowds of dissident paramilitary factions while (Catholic) police officers are being gunned down or blown up.

    To me the choices are easy – get a career driving a black taxi, or find yourself back in jail.

  • Again Comrade Stalin is absolutely correct.
    It is an extremely unpopular thing to do. Thats the point. There is little or no advantage in this particular issue but in the context of the broad subject of civil rights, then there is possibly an electoral advantage. But surely the point is that people should just do the right thing.

    The SDLP track record on Civil Rights is at least as good as anybody elses. I am surprised Comrade Stalin thinks of it unfavourably when most reasonable people might think DUP and Sinn Féin do not favourably compare on the issue of Civil Rights.
    I hope that Comrade Stalin is not swayed by the fact that the current Minister for Justice is his Party Leader Mr Ford.

    I think I have referenced the point before that many mainstream nationalists …..and I include myself…..have voted Sinn Fein on the basis that they were seen as less likely to compromise basic principles of nationalism/republicanism. Which is why the upcoming decade of Centenaries and Half Centenaries provides a challenge to both nationalist/republican parties. Just how mainstream nationalists currently voting Sinn Féin react to Martin McGuinness using the L word (I choose that small example at random and as kinda touchstone) will be interesting. SF is certainly vulnerable.

    But on a broader point the SDLP is “expected” to sign up to a form of faux lets get alongerism, in a way that the UUP and indeed Alliance are expected to do…..the reality is of course all of them are capable of doing REAL lets get alongerism much better. And the SDLP appears to faux lets getalongerists as breaking ranks.
    I merely see it as the SDLP more clearly using a language with which they are familiar.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitz,

    The fact that the SDLP highlight injustices towards republicans (and apparently specifically dissident ones), and not loyalists belies the notion that the party is flying an old civil rights flag. It is hard to disabuse the notion that this is the party polishing up its Green credentials with the (forlorn) hope of obtaining dissident transfers in marginal seats. So I don’t see your justification of this on the basis that it harks back to some sort of earthy orthodoxy, unless that the tradition you are referring to is the one where we all pick a sides in a sectarian dispute which would, of course, be sadly rather too traditional

    Rightly or wrongly I think in the past quite a few SDLP voters would have had sympathies of a sort with physical force republicanism. They certainly would not have agreed with the methods but they would have understood the logic. We are in different circumstances now, circumstances where the dissidents have sworn to use violence to bring down the deal that the SDLP helped broker and that their voters supported.

    I really do not see how you can draw a comparison between these cases and those of the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six etc which were about gross miscarriages of justice involving shoddy police work, confessions obtained by torture and so on, and where no evidence against them existed. The evidence in the McGeough case is more than compelling, and the Price case is rather simply a reactivation of a prison sentence so she is serving time for a crime she was duly convicted for.

  • Comrade Stalin,
    My point which I am happy to repeat is that this is merely one of several civil rights issues….an unpopular one……..which has been visited on us by the current decade of austerity etc.
    You should perhaps fixate yourself with the prisons issue. I hardly think that a SDLP which you perceive to be in terminal decline making any decision would vexate or confound you so much.

    There are no dissident transfers. They dont vote in enough numbers. And I hardly think that the transfers would go to SDLP anyway.
    At my advanced age I have a certain advantage. A few doors from the old Andytown RUC station was the SDLP Offices for West Belfast. It was a regular occurence to be approached by a family member of the Provos who would be anxious to trace where wee Johnny had been taken after he was lifted.
    Did Paddy Devlin or Desmond Gillespie get any thanks or votes for this? No of course not.
    Neither did Bob Cooper for that matter.
    Of course that was the 1970s.
    But Id argue that the 1970s Provisionals were more of a danger to Society than present day dissidents. Now of course they are calling the shots so to speak at Stormont and giving David Ford the Justice Ministry.

    The dissidents will be no more grateful to the SDLP than the Provo families were in the 1970s. They were totally shameless. “God Bless You Paddy Devlin” “God Bless You Desmond Gillespie”………and picketing the homes of SDLP members a short time later.
    Of course Id argue that the present day SF is not exactly consistent with its 1970s history.
    And God knows the Alliance Party isnt.

  • Pete Baker

    “Slugger has heard complaints about the SDLP, particularly in Derry, championing the cause of dissidents like Marian Price from Sinn Fein sources also”

    Mick

    Not that your Sinn Féin sources would be at all disingenuous and/or hypocritical… Marian Price refused to meet a Sinn Féin delegation to the prison recently.

    Here’s the Sinn Féin TD, Dessie Ellis, in Dáil Written Answers on 16 May 2012

    67. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the work he is undertaking to encourage the release of a person (details supplied) under the terms of the Weston Park Agreement. [24355/12]

    Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): It is our understanding that the prisoner in question has initiated legal proceedings to secure an early release and judgment on this is pending. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment any further at this stage other than to confirm that officials from my Department continue to monitor developments very closely.

    And, if it’s not abundantly clear which “person (details supplied)” he’s referring to, compare the answer to the more explicit questions from Socialist Party, and Independent, TDs from Dublin on 22 May.

    Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): I propose to take Questions Nos. 156, 163 and 182 together.

    The various measures included in the package agreed at Weston Park in August 2001 addressed four issues to assist in the successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement: policing, normalisation, the stability of the institutions and decommissioning.

    Proposed draft legislation by the British Government to deal with this specific issue as referred to in paragraph 20 of the Weston Park accord was formally withdrawn by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain MP, on 11 January 2006. The draft legislation, the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, had been opposed by the majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly parties and the Secretary of State was compelled to withdraw the legislation when the only supporting party, Sinn Féin, could not accept certain aspects of the proposed legislation. The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

    On the particular issue of securing early release for Mr. McGeough, it is our understanding that the prisoner in question has initiated legal proceedings to secure an early release and judgment on this is pending. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment any further at this stage other than to confirm that officials from my Department continue to monitor developments very closely.

    Some of those Dublin TDs have also been known to ask about other imprisoned dissenting republicans…

    But I’m sure Sinn Féin in Dublin feel equally “less comfortable” as they do in Londonderry.

    Mind you, Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív has been asking questions too – 28 February 2012.

    127. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason he is not pressing that an agreement made between the Irish Government and the British Government be implemented in full, and as agreed at Weston Park, that no further prosecutions and consequently prison sentences will be imposed on those who committed offences before 10 April 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10899/12]

    And questions about Gerry McGeough’s case even made it to the House of Commons, where a Labour MP has raised the topic

    John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent representations he has received on the case of Gerry McGeough. [107960]

    Mr Paterson: I receive correspondence on a wide range of issues, including the case of Gerry McGeough.

    John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the implications for the peace process in Northern Ireland of the continued incarceration of Gerry McGeough; and if he will make a statement. [107961]

    Mr Paterson: Mr McGeough’s appeal against the judgment in the Government’s favour in his judicial review is due to be heard by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in June. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment further pending the final resolution of that matter.

    John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will review the case of Gerry McGeough under paragraph 20 of the Good Friday Agreement. [107964] [added emphasis]

    Mr Paterson: Paragraph 20 of the Good Friday Agreement bears no relation to the case of Mr McGeough.

    [Wrong agreement John – Ed] Indeed.

  • Bangordub

    This is great fun lads, but I think Mick’s point is that there is no apparent strategy here, I agree that there is no electoral advantage for the SDLP or anyone else for that matter. Mr Fitz is correct in emphasising the SDLP pedigree on civil rights but who votes on that basis nowadays?
    The central question is: What is the SDLP reasoning here? If it is, as I suspect, to claim some kind of moral high ground, why not just define the objective publicly?

  • Indeed.
    Back in the 1970s it was kinda routine that if SDLP said anything critical of the British Army/RUC or spoke against internment or maladministration of justice, they were portrayed by unionists as “fellow travellers” of the Provisionals.
    So its abit of a laugh to see Nigel Dodds get so worked up about this when the DUP is now joined at the hip with Sinn Féin. And just as odd to see Alliance get worked up when their leader holds the Justice Ministry courtesy of DUP and Sinn Féin.

    I dont think SDLP is calculating that it will win or indeed lose votes over Gerry McGeogh or Marian Price.
    Alas in 2012, DUP SF or the Alliance Party cant credibly accuse SDLP of being fellow travellers of the dissidents when those three parties happily engaged with each other to mutual advantage.
    I think thats what really sticks in the craw.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitz, I think you need to get past your obsession with Alliance. Really.

  • I love my obsession with Alliance and its friends. Really.

  • “there no longer appears to be any reference to the Petition to free Gerry McGeough”

    I did a ‘mcgeough’ search on the SDLP website and there’s still this photo [jpg file] and this Pat Ramsey press release on 21 May 2012:

    Mr Ramsey said: “The SDLP is strongly opposed to the political views held by Marian Price and Gerry McGeough, but we are extremely concerned about the dilution of human and civil rights in each of their cases and are worried that this may be exploited by dissidents in their campaign of terror.

    “The meeting today with Mr Paterson was both robust and challenging. In what was, at times, a heated exchange, we sought to question the Secretary of State about the rationale for the continued detention of Marian Price. We also expressed concern about the impact of incarceration on her physical and mental health and due process in this case.

    “Additionally we presented the NIO with a petition calling for Gerry McGeough’s release, though Mr Paterson could not accept this in person due to an on-going legal review.

    “I will continue to work towards the release of Marian Price and Gerry McGeough.”

    Earlier on 16 April 2012:

    SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey has revealed that after intensive discussions with the [NI] Department of Justice, members of the Oireachtas now have the same rights to access prisoners [in NI] as any other elected representatives on the island, after he secured the amending of Prison Standing Orders.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I saw the headline on the front of today’s Newsletter, and I thought it was a good story. I don’t see anything wrong with this at all. I didn’t vote at the time when the SDLP were the big Nationalist party but as I understand it, they got votes when they appeared to “stand for something” and they lost votes when they behaved like politicians.

    In any case, taking up an unpopular cause can have its advantages. Few could openly state that the SDLP are likely to benefit from it so it appears like a selfless act – and maybe it is. But that in itself plays into the idea that they will call it as they see it.

    Incidently I don’t think campaigning for a couple of possible dissidents is that harmful. In my view, most of the SDLP electorate would feel by and large detached from dissidents and the most it impacts upon them is the odd delay on their way to or from work. Clearly, the very serious attacks cut somewhat deeper but by large, the dissidents are seen as paranoid and delusional.

    In my own view, Marian Price’s detention is wrong. McGeogh’s I’m a little more ambivialent about – the only thing that bothers me about it is the way that it seemed a politcally motivated prosecution – but he deserved to spend some time for what he did.

    I don’t uncomfortable with the SDLP supporting these people. And I don’t see how it will harm them. Whereas it certainly makes Sinn Fein seem uncomfortable. So aren’t they doing what Mr Fealty’s article suggests????

  • cynic2

    Albans position on Price was really untenable

    Its a strict legal process that complies with ECHR. She broke her licence and therefore forfeited her right to freedom. Period

  • I think Mr Hutz nails it. Especially his “behave like politicians”point.
    I think just about every nationalist would see a distinction between SDLP and “dissident”….rather more than would see a distinction between SF and “dissident”……..so any smear by DUP or Alliance would not work. Put bluntly a dissident is not very likely to have been a member of the SDLP in 1970s, 1980s or 1990s.
    DUP and Alliance are rather closer to SF these days than the SDLP is to dissidents.
    If the worst charge that those trying to pick up SDLP votes can make is that this decision makes no political sense……then I fail to understand the alarm of those making the charges.
    To take Mr Hutzs point just a little further the rivals for SDLP votes (SF and Alliance) are the people who are acting like politicians.
    I expressed little concern for Mr McGeough when he was sentenced. His arrest, trial and imprisonment was something of a cause celebre on this website…..and we were assured by his supporters that SF would pay a heavy electoral price. They didnt.
    Without wishing to be unkind to Mr McGeough or indeed Ms Price, both strike me as being entirely part of the real world.
    I attended a seminar recently where one of the issues discussed was involving (young) people in politics. Rather depressingly for the likes of me, a lot of people talked about Twitter and Facebook.
    Yet at the end of the day, a very wise retired politician, who was being honoured the same day made the point (in an unscripted and moving speech) that the issues are all there. Its a simple as giving voice to the people who have no voice.
    And I fully expect that there will be more of the same over the next few months and years.

  • oops……”both McGeough and Price strike me as NOT being entirely part of the real world”

  • Mick Fealty

    A good and interesting discussion, with some useful corrective perspectives.

    Let me just reiterate though the underlying thrust of my argument. It’s not that the SDLP should not touch this issue. The point about the parties long and honourable tradition of intervention of civil rights issues is well made.

    But rather it is that this is the only story the SDLP own at the moment. That alone invites critics to come put a mischievous spin on it (politics is necessarily a competitive as well as a dirty game).

    I doubt whether it was intended like this. It’s a ‘campaigning enthusiasm’ of one MLA which appears to have taken root at party leadership level. As I say, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing civil rights.

    But it would be better to try to find out what shifts votes, and then work out a credible position (preferably without the aid of the hideous triangulation device). Then you can go ahead make things awkward for your with some degree of purpose.

    As one SDLP friend noted last night, if you cannot answer the why question on the doorstep (or on Facebook, Twitter, etc..) then why frankly ask for new members and/or votes?

  • I have to say this move is attractive. I am disillusioned with the very obvious overly managed choreographed polished honed nothingness that comes from the DUP / SF machine. Girdwood is a classic example. It is lifeless and predictable.

    Now give me something that makes me take notice. I’m no commie but when someone calls something for what it is then I am interested. I think the public can indeed smell BS and unfortunately there has been an awful lot of it over the past few years. I also think it has been swallowed in part “for the good of the process”.

    I remember in the cop series Luther – the madcap sidekick woman gave Luther a sound bit of advice when he was chasing shadows in pursuit of the bad guy – “Change the state of play”.

    So it is with SDLP – stop playing on the same turf as the mainstream and change the nature of the debate. Justice, rights, and fairness have so much traction and impact on so many people that there is plenty of mileage. Think of poverty, health, education, housing. These are rich feeding grounds for issue based politics.

    Fair play to them – they could be on to something.

  • cynic2

    ” the issues are all there. Its a simple as giving voice to the people who have no voice.”

    …. so we would then send home all immigrants and have criminals hanging form, the lampposts

    …. that the simple view

  • “It’s a ‘campaigning enthusiasm’ of one MLA which appears to have taken root at party leadership level.”

    I don’t view it as that and neither seemingly does Pat Ramsey. Pat is concerned about the growing impact of republican dissidents in Derry and, as can be seen from the highlighted text, is worried that the dissidents will take advantage of the prison issues. Both he and MP Mark Durkan have also condemned vigilantism in the city.

    A browse through the SDLP news archive will show that the party is raising and possibly playing a major role in a whole range of issues – including hospitals and railways; it’s certainly not a one-trick pony.

    From a democratic perspective I’m more concerned about the issues it leverages away from the public gaze through unaccountable structures such as the BIIB Joint Secretariat.

    At a local level in places such as Moyle it needs the support of unionist parties to promote its particular agenda yet it doesn’t seem to have grasped that salient fact. Ditto the unionist parties.

  • I honestly think it is being over-analysed.
    Pat Ramsey has a reputation for being a campaigner…….on (say) issues on disability and carers.
    The issue has not arisen to the fore simply because his campaigning has influenced the Leadership.
    Dominic Bradleys campaigning on (say) the Irish language or autism may not grab News Letter headlines but its part of the same attitude…..civil rights……which is deep within the SDLP.
    Likewise the young SDLP people who organised a petition to reverse the ban on gay blood donation.
    Its Civil Rights.
    Every Party should choose its ground to fight a battle. Civil Rights is a ground on which the SDLP is comfortable…..frankly with more reason than DUP or Sinn Féin.

    I declare an interest of course. I am a member of SDLP (since late August) and have attended several SDLP functions since. Social and Business. And it all seems to be going pretty well.
    Not everything is in the public domain which is great for SDLP and not so good for the media.

  • quality

    Ah yes, Pat Ramsey. Loves civil rights. Apart from the rights of women…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40645198@N03/sets/72157625119611646/comments/

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitz,

    There’s a lot of interesting stuff in your perspective but it’s sad that you can’t have a discussion without getting into trolling. Surely there is a more rewarding hobby. This constant prattering about the relationship between Alliance and SF/DUP, introducing it into discussions where it has no relevance or resemblance to the matter at hand, is simply boring, rather like hearing a BBC football commentator going on about 1966. I do have a list of things that stick in my craw, but the SDLP inviting electoral failure upon themselves is not one of them. On the other hand, the SDLP taking up the cause of people who are acting to undermine the peace and stability that we have all worked towards most certainly does, especially when it seeks to cloak this in the misappropriated language of principle and civil rights

    Perhaps the voices in your head have told you that Alliance have expressed an opinion on this matter (they haven’t) or that there’s an accusation that the SDLP are fellow travellers with the dissidents (I haven’t seen that accusation yet), but you would do well to avoid listening to them. And I’m very glad the SDLP has rediscovered its civil rights roots. Given the wide definition of civil rights that you’re relying on here, I’m looking forward to hearing their contribution on issues such as gay marriage and abortion whenever they come up.

    I’ve yet to take a good long slurp of the SDLP kool-aid in the manner that you apparently have, but it is clear that things are not that well in the SDLP. The party leader felt the need to announce to the public that he was going to tax all of his MLAs to fund a revamped press office. And yesterday he sacked Dolores Kelly from her committee post in the assembly, which is clearly an indication that there is internal infighting going on on the same scale as in the UUP. You are welcome to believe that this is all “going very well” but I don’t know who you are fooling, other than yourself.

    Michael, it sounds like you are bored of what is going on up in Stormont, which is completely understandable, but the part I don’t follow is how you seem to be content to settle for cheap gimmicks to placate your need for politics to be a little bit exciting. It doesn’t have to be this way; the SDLP could rather more usefully mount some sort of constructive opposition to what is going on in the executive.

    Lionel,

    Incidently I don’t think campaigning for a couple of possible dissidents is that harmful. In my view, most of the SDLP electorate would feel by and large detached from dissidents and the most it impacts upon them is the odd delay on their way to or from work. Clearly, the very serious attacks cut somewhat deeper but by large, the dissidents are seen as paranoid and delusional.

    I appreciate that in your big house on the Malone Road or the Somerton Road or wherever you hang out that the actions of dissidents seems like a world away, but I really do not feel that this is the case when police officers are being shot or blown up, or where huge bombs are being left lying around the country which could cause massive devastation if they went off. I find it very hard to accept that nationalists really think that campaigning for the release of duly convicted criminals is something that should be taking up a party leader’s time as opposed to, say, challenging the cosy consensus in the Executive. Of course, we’ll know what the reality is sooner or later.

    In my own view, Marian Price’s detention is wrong. McGeogh’s I’m a little more ambivialent about – the only thing that bothers me about it is the way that it seemed a politcally motivated prosecution – but he deserved to spend some time for what he did.

    It is no more politically motivated than when the government in Germany locks up skinheads for displaying the wrong emblems or singing the wrong songs. Like Germany, we have a sound consensus on the way forward in this country, with clear national, inter-government and international backing, and we need to make hard choices about what we need to do to preserve that and avoid a return to the past. Handwringing about the background of lawfully convicted criminals is not likely to accomplish this.

    The deal with respect to release on license is very clear. The sentence (usually life) remains active and you are warned that it can be reactivated at any time. The vast majority of paramilitaries, including those who speak out a lot (cf Antony McIntyre) have not been returned to jail. A tiny number of them have, and they seem to be drawn more or less equally from republicanism and loyalism.

    I don’t uncomfortable with the SDLP supporting these people. And I don’t see how it will harm them. Whereas it certainly makes Sinn Fein seem uncomfortable. So aren’t they doing what Mr Fealty’s article suggests????

    You may or may not be aware that the dissidents have placed death threats on various senior Sinn Féin members and a number of them have been warned about their personal security by the police. I can quite understand why Sinn Féin are uncomfortable, can’t you ?

  • Alas Comrade Stalin, I have many hobbies…some of which are almost interesting.
    But the headline here was surely going to be a thread on which I could contribute. A rare occasion when I might actually know what I was talking about.
    Indeed after about 17 posts here, Mr Fealty commented on the quality of the discussion
    “A good and interesting discussion, with some useful corrective perspectives”

    At that point I had made some five substantive comments.
    Hardly trolling, I would have thought.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Comrade,

    You can pigeon hole this bog standard Tyrone man as an upper middle class aloof living on the Malone if you wish to. I personally find that for the most part people in Northern Ireland are desensitized to most of the bomb scares and see it as an inconvenience. I don’t sense alot of fear. As I said,sometimes issues cut deeper. I was in Omagh on the half marathon when Ronan Kerr was murdered and it was shocking for example. Anyway, its up to you if you want to have a reasonable debate.

    I won’t engage in trolling

  • John Dallat of the SDLP seems to spend every waking hour calling for Torrens Knight’s early release licence to be revoked:

    http://alturl.com/j78x8

    Why the disparity between pro-peace process Loyalists and anti-peace Nationalist terrorists from the SDLP?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Wasn’t Torrens Knight convicted of a violent assault and that was why his license was revoked. Slightly different from Someone who has had her license revoked because of… Well what exactly??? Is it because of the prosecution that was dismissed or holding a piece of paper.

  • Ah, the harmless ‘piece of paper’.

    What was written on it again?

    Threats to kill, wasn’t it???

  • Lionel Hutz

    All I know is that any case was dismissed.

  • And will proceed when the necessary paperwork is complete….

  • Lionel Hutz

    I wouldn’t be so sure. There would be a strong abuse of process application.

  • Take it up with Barra McGrory…