SDLP try an ‘insider trading card’ to connect with Sinn Fein’s base?

So the Commissioner for Public Appointments says that OFMdFM were bang out of order in their appointments to the board of the new Maze facility… Why?  Because much of the political activity of the new appointees was not declared according to the rules of the CPA. [Where have we heard that one before? – Ed]

Ironically, by the strict rules of the CPA, the chair – you know, the one Sinn Fein officials initially made a great fuss over, does not have to declare he is a member of the DUP [You what? – Ed]. Mark Devenport has the inside track:

Mr Brannigan got an early taste of the sensitivities involved when Sinn Fein officials got into a minor flurry of excitement over his DUP membership.

The Maze chair said he had not ticked the political activity box on his application form because, although he was a DUP member, he hadn’t engaged in canvassing or any of the activities he’d been asked about.

After an hour or so, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness killed the story by blaming reporters for getting energised about the matter.

This was a bit rich, as Sinn Fein officials had raised it with the media in the first place, but the party obviously then decided there was no point disrupting a project they want to move ahead.

As it happens, the former Sinn Fein Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Pat Joe O’Donnell does not have to declare which party he gave his donations by CPA rules.

This is the second time this week the party has rolled away from an ‘official’ sham fight confrontation with the DUP… The party had been initially supportive of a motion of no confidence from the SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, on the behaviour of Nelson McCausland in respect of the breaching of a Parades Commission ruling (5mins in):

But for all the ferocity of their attack on the DUP for its rather questionable positioning on the breach of the PC’s ruling on Donegall Street there has been a no show from Sinn Fein.

In fact, I suspect there is the not least chance of scoring a hit against McCausland since he’s being criticised by both Sinn Fein and the SDLP more for sins of omission rather than commission.

But it seems the SDLP may have learned something useful in the last year: ie, that politics is a competitive sport; and making the right sort of trouble for your opponent is good for business.

To that I’d also add some others:

  • You don’t have to go into official Opposition to play an oppositionalist card;
  • Capacity to disrupt is enhanced with only one ministerial pressure point inside the Executive;
  • The best way of drawing votes back from Sinn Fein may be to hit the DUP and ask your rivals to join you.

The slightness of the case against McCausland means this issue is almost certain to go nowhere. But the insider trading card is no doubt a valuable one to play.

What they (and the UUP) need now is a much stronger policy base from which to prosecute the next election. And identify – and connect with – the real concerns of real people and offer a platform that is: a, credible; and b, has the capacity to shift votes.

As the old saying goes, tus maith, leath na hoibre

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty