SDLP “A party not sure of where it is going or who it wants to take with it…”

When ‘talking’ by email last night, a friend who is far from unsympathetic to the SDLP remarked “you know you’ve a problem in politics and life when its your own efforts that afflict you most!” Alasdair McDonnell has just had a fortnight from hell, and for the most part the hell his party has just gone through was entirely of its own making.

In short, someone on McDonnell’s front bench was trying to be just a little too clever with a piece legislation that turned out to have a very powerful (and for the SDLP, a very nasty) emotional edge to it. McDonnell came in with a reputation as a bruiser who worked from his gut, but this entreprise has no sign of gut or brain.

As Deirdre Heenan pointed out on The View last night, they tried to steer between the two “and found themselves indecisive, floundering all over the place… and what they tried to do in their later debates was to try to turn this into a technical issue, whereas people at home and the public want to know, do you believe there is a moral issue at stake here.”

Earlier in Gareth Gordon’s video piece, Fionnuala O’Connor noted…

When Seamus Mallon and Brid Rogers weighed in it made things pretty much impossible for Alasdair McDonnell who had looked as though he was beginning to get his feet steady on the ground and get a grip of things and but in in recent weeks again we have this spectacle of and the SDLP beginning to eat itself.

You can judge the degree of drift in the party by the fact that politicians thirteen years out of active politics can have such a direct effect on the politicians of now. Certainly direct comparisons with the UUP are tempting, but somewhat misleading.

Both major parties are relying on the prospect that their two minor counterparts will slowly wither on the vine. But in the case of the DUP they have made a bolder pitch for the UUP’s working class base, and the Alliance is hoovering up the rest.

The SDLP is under much less pressure, with SF content (for now) to leave the northern project on auto pilot, and Alliance struggling to get any kind of toe hold in majority Catholic areas.

That’s a situation that led to Patrick Murphy’s remark that the SDLP was more a comfort zone than a political party just before Big Al came to power.

And yet this debacle – amateur, fumbling and avoidable as it was – comes at a time when the party looks far from finished out in the country. The conversation rate to SF has all but stopped. The Mid Ulster by election saw a net gain in its vote even with a large drop in turnout.

If the party had roused itself to appoint a head of communications some of this trouble might have been anticipated.

Two years after dropping the last guy (months before that heims of an inaugural speech) there is no one managing key relationships with the press or, just as importantly, selling good news.

No other party I can think of would get such a serious bump in ratings in two successive IPSOS/MORI BBCNI polls (one for Spotlight here and Nolan here courtesy of MJH) and not say a word about, internally or externally.

If the party is not such a comfort zone now, then McDonnell should use the discomfiture of some of his misfiring frontbenchers to din a little reality in on their heads. And maybe do something to hook in the wise heads to lend a little authority (rather than substract it) to the party every now and then.

If the SDLP had a bad week, Sinn Fein fared only a marginally better. It seems it was they who pulled their man first out last night’s The View leaving the SDLP with a single interrogative interview on the troubles within the SDLP rather than issues underlying the legislation and no SF adversary to put on the back foot.

If the bill goes through on Monday (and despite assurances the SDLP whip will be solid, we cannot discount slippage), an important point of principle will have been lost. One which, despite the SDLP’s cack-handedness, will continue to put limits on SF’s majority interest in Northern Irish nationalism.

More worrying for them Jim Allister has drafted a complex (but narrow) piece legislation you can be sure that the party’s adversaries in Dublin will be mulling over with great interest. This issue may be ending for the SDLP, but it may only just be starting in earnest for a southern Sinn Fein that is finding its northern past is sucking it back out of the main drag of the southern discourse.

If the SDLP has a future, it has to learn how to act like a political party rather than a predictable political subsidiary to its larger and better organised cousin. That means taking time to look at the larger game, deciding, as Gareth Gordon so directly puts it, “where it is going and who it wants to take with it…”

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  • 241934 john brennan

    Recently, Bishop Eamon Martin and Fr. Tim Bartlett publically stated that, when it comes to the common good, moral considerations should come before political considerations. In general, most SDLP voters instinctively agree with them.

    However, on recent issues the present SDLP leadership is seen as to be very publically ignoring the moral dimensions.

    When Alban Maginness proposed inserting an amendment into a Justice Bill – an amendment designed to stop the opening of a private abortion clinic in Belfast – not one of his Belfast SDLP Assembly colleagues, including his party leader, supported him. All Sinn Fein MLA’s voted against the Maginness amendment.
    On same-sex marriage legislation, proposed by Sinn Fein, 8 SDLP MLA’s voted in favour, 5 were recorded as absent, with Alban Maginess being present, but abstaining from voting. On the same issue, also sponsored by Sinn Fein, SDLP local councillors followed a similar incoherent pattern. On this ‘conscience issue’, the present party leadership advocated a vote for, permitted abstention, but forbade a vote against.

    Against this recent background, and sensing alienation in traditional party voters and supporters, some of the party grandees decided to have decided to go public in the present SPAD’s debate -“to plug the hole in the dyke” – to stop the outflow of party support.

    By morphing into a full blown 100% socialist and secular party, there is no future for the SDLP.

    By aiming for the common good, through prioritising social justice, while observing moral and natural laws, SDLP does have a political place in Ireland (north and south) and and also within the UK and Europe.

  • The SDLP finds itself in much the same position as the UUP and for the same reason–both have lost their respective positions as the leading party in their community by being ethnically outbidded. Both must find out where there base is and build from it in a sustained logical fashion rather than simply flailing around in reactive terms. The SDLP actually has a better chance as it has more of a natural base. Its base is all those who were (and still are) opposed to physical-force republicanism: pious Catholics who take their guidance from the Church hierarchy, the middle class, and democrats in general. It will have to figure out how to bridge the differences among these groups, probably by leaining more to the religious than to the secular. The party also needs to inject more professionalism into its campaigning. The UUP lacks such a sharp dividing line to distinguish it from the DUP and so will face more problems. It will have to fall back on those who voted for the party out of habit, who are increasingly dying off as time marches on.

  • CiaranM

    Last nights ‘the View’ was a good illustration of how our intellectual culture functions to serve power. Professors’ Heenan and Wilford each picked their topic of the week. One topic chosen was the SPAD bill; designed to target republicans with convictions(or the small terrorists if you like); this elicited moral hand-wringing from our virtuous academic guests who talk righteously of need to act on ‘behalf’ of the public to debar those who have committed ‘serious crimes.'(Leaving aside that such an approach fits with one partisan narrative of what happened here in the past).The other chosen topic is the killing of the British soldier in Woolwich. Wilford appears visibly moved by the horror of the murder – seemingly incredulous as to what would drive these ‘terrorists’ to brutally slay ‘our’ well meaning soldiers. Like all well schooled academics both know instinctively not to stray beyond the boundaries of acceptable discussion. It would just be unthinkable to the obedient mind to observe that the anti-British murder of a single British soldier in his own country by Muslims is directly related to the pro-British murders of infinitely more Muslims in their countries. Watching the show, a visitor from Mars may get the impression that Lee Rigby was a selfless volunteer for a local homeless shelter, and that former convicted IRA members, aspiring to be government advisors, were part of a rapacious system that in just the past 10 years, is complicit in the deaths of well over 1 million people – mostly of the expendable brown and black skinned variety. But as I ask time and time again regarding esteemed commentators – would Heenan and Wilford be where they are today if they applied the same moral criteria to ‘our’ boys’ (or the ‘big terrorists’ if you like) as they do to official enemies? I think not

  • Sorry, that should read “where their base is” instead of as written.

  • Morpheus

    It is apt when we talk about a hierarchy of victims this is sneaking under the media radar today:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-30/us-soldier-to-admit-afghan-killings-to-escape-death/4723194

  • Mick Fealty

    And that relates to the SDLP?

  • Morpheus

    It relates to the hierarchy of victims which CiaranM talks about in his post.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sorry. Bit tired and grumpy. Sun’s shining and we’ve run out of red. And it’s my turn to do the weekend shop!

  • Alias

    “It would just be unthinkable to the obedient mind to observe that the anti-British murder of a single British soldier in his own country by Muslims is directly related to the pro-British murders of infinitely more Muslims in their countries.”

    It it was a ‘normal’ reaction of any sort I’d expect chopped off heads to be dropping on street corners with the same frequency as acid rain. Fortunately, the dismal practice is confined to deranged murderers. Some folks are just born evil; and there is nothing more to it than that. If you look at the murder gangs in NI their numbers are closely co-related to the percentage of the population that is sociopathic. These folks are drawn to trouble; and if it isn’t ready-made, they’ll make it. “I’m not a psychopath! I’m just a victim of the system!”

    In regard to the demise of the SDLP: that is built into the system and would have occured despite their best efforts to prevent it (not that they made any such effort). It only requires one unionist party, one nationalist party, and one designation of ‘other’ (the Aliiance party).

  • Framer

    John Brennan says “By morphing into a full blown 100% socialist and secular party, there is no future for the SDLP. By aiming for the common good, through prioritising social justice, while observing moral and natural laws, SDLP does have a political place in Ireland (north and south) and and also within the UK and Europe.”

    That seems good advice but it can hardly be taken now when they have been seen to be as pan-nationalist as SF, especially in council votes like the playpark in Newry. At the same time, they have been voting for gay marriage (inc. surprisingly the leader at Westminster) while abstaining in droves at Stormont.
    They are all over the place and tactically inept. The smell of doom pervades the party.

  • Newman

    SDLP rely heavily on transfers and their ambivalence about basic moral issues means that those unionists and others who saw in them a party made up of fundamentally decent individuals who were strong on social justice and law and order will basically go elsewhere with their transferred votes.

    At the same time those who take seriously the implications of their Catholic faith and who have for decades faithfully supported the party are alienated and disenfranchised…the aggressively secular intensely socialist model beloved of some of the new kids on the block has limited purchase in their traditional strongholds…the analogy with the Tories in the Shires (the so call raving loons)as compared with the new metropolitan “right on” social libertarian Tories is apposite.They would need to pretty quickly stop the rot or they are toast in the 8 seats they scraped in to on the last count

  • boondock

    The SDLP are in a mess but they have pretty much bottomed out. I think their vote wont be affected by this as a quick glance at the last elections revealed only one or 2 scraping in and if anything you could argue they just missed out a seat in NA, SA, FST, N&A and Strangford so their impending doom can be put on hold for a bit. I do agree that they need to get their act together and quickly especially when all the other parties are struggling too. The opportunity is there for them to make some gains but as always they are making a balls of it

  • Mick Fealty

    Spot on Boondock.

    The deepest irony is that one party in all of this that seems to be the last to realise its own latent strength is the SDLP itself.

    What has made Big Al’s promise to win back seats more plausible than others is that it is premised on the party’s realistic chance of winning in a whole bunch of constituencies.

    Also, I know we have focused on this issue a lot this week, but don’t over estimate the effect it is likely to have on future electoral outcomes. OFMdFM have bought everyone another year so the reckoning now won’t have to be made until 2016.

    In the meantime, the party has been handed a reality check. Dick with voter sentiment at your peril. And if you don’t know what voter sentiment is when it stands up and bites you on the ass, maybe you need to get another job?

    Sooner or later it has to dawn them that post GFA they lost. SF has the nationalist power seat in Stormont now, and the responsibility for getting it right.

    The upside is that the SDLP has (whether or not it goes into opposition) time out to plan about what it can do differently to SF in OFMdFM, and what it can feasibly deliver that SF cannot. Just hating what SF did in the war does matter as much as offering a practical alternative leadership.

    Both SF and the DUP share a similar problem. That is that they cannot easily abandon their extremist edges.

    At the first sign of trouble over flags the DUP chose to stand and fight. SF is still peace as war mode. The object in both cases was power. A bit like poor old Gordon Brown, once they’ve achieved it, they seemingly don’t know what they want to do with it, or how to compromise their own rigid St Andrews’ system to actually get anything done.

    The SDLP need product as much as they need the distribution system that Big Al has been prioritising.

    What portfolios do they want in the longer term (when they’ve moved back up the food chain), what portfolios are they going to get in the short term., and what are they going to do with them that the current incumbents are failing to do.

    Up to now, they’ve been making the same mistake the last opposition in the made, which is to just promise everything (and whatever you’re having yourself).

    They have a better and more stable base than any of the other smaller parties, and they face a weaker incumbent opponent (for the reasons laid out above).

  • Morpheus

    “Dick with voter sentiment at your peril.”

    What do you think the voter sentiment is Mick?
    1. The fact that they ‘dicked’ around by potentially standing in the way of this bill
    or
    2. the fact that they permitted a bill they believe to be flawed to pass through instead of fighting their corner?

    “At the first sign of trouble over flags the DUP chose to stand and fight”
    Couldn’t disagree more. They inflamed a situation to try and win seats/salaries/pensions.

  • Comrade Stalin

    SF are going to say on the doorsteps that the SDLP sided with unionists to discriminate against republicans. They’ll say that the party has moved a long way from the “great man” John Hume.

    I still don’t feel we are really grappling with the holes in the narrative here. You seem to be arguing, Mick, that this case is special because Travers was a Catholic, despite the fact that there are plenty of cases of Catholics being murdered by the IRA (Jean McConville, Robert McCartney, etc etc) and none of this stopped the SDLP from supporting Sinn Féin candidates every step of the way. If none of that was sufficient to stop people voting for SF and the SDLP what exactly is it about the Travers case that you think will change this ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Neither. You don’t raise victims hopes only to dash them.on a technicality. Forget the right and wrong of the issue and go to the realpolitik. They started (however they managed it) in a strong political position and then abandoned it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Morpheus,

    I think you’ll find we’re not that far apart. 😉

    CS,

    I can’t write a comparitive essay. But times change. And these things accumulate. Gerrys down south having his goal posts over the past shifted in ways that no longer suit his agenda.

    Its twenty years from the ceasefires. 15 years from the GFA. Six years since the restart in 07 and will be nine before the parties go back to the polls.

    There’s nothing written down that states things must remain the same.

  • mac tire

    Alias
    “If you look at the murder gangs in NI their numbers are closely co-related to the percentage of the population that is sociopathic. These folks are drawn to trouble; and if it isn’t ready-made, they’ll make it. “I’m not a psychopath! I’m just a victim of the system!”

    LOL!! You seem to know very, very little, my friend. Now, if you could just back up your opinion I’m sure we would all be very grateful.

    But as I’m sure they are just idle words, I won’t hold my breath.

  • aquifer

    The SPAD bill is necessary to guard public safety, otherwise we risk another rash of murderers who all think they are destined for something better.

    The SDLP talk more than they think, and seem to have forgotten what the letters stood for.

  • Ruarai

    Sooner or later it has to dawn them that post GFA they lost. SF has the nationalist power seat in Stormont now, and the responsibility for getting it right

    So this is where it gets interesting – or depressing. The SDLP party leadership since Mark Durkan through today’s McDonnell take a lot of the stick for the state of things. In fairness, that’s par for the course when one takes on the leadership role.

    But let’s look a little closer. Since Durkan was leader, how many of his Assembly team, or Al’s today, have brought substantive intiatives to the floor? What’s the scorechart for the passage of Bills of signifcance started by non-leadership members? How many non-leadership members of the SDLP Assembly group have even made on substantial contribution to a debate?

    Now ask yourself: If you were a lightweight makeweight would you actually want a leader set on a course for change? Would you feel threatened or encouraged, knowing your own capacites, by a leader set on sharpening things?

    Now ask this: Why did Al get so much of his backing for leader from the core party membership and considerably less so from the Assembly Group?

    Is the problem really at leadership level any more than the season Roy Keane won player of the year at Forest despite them being relegated? ( I exaggerate but you see where I’m goin here.)

    My experience of SDLP leaders is that in their very different ways, they have been much more aware of the situation than Mick acknowledges here and, moreover, than the SDLP Assembly Group have been.

    Let’s consider the incentives that may help explain the different perspectives at leadership level, Assembly level and core party member/volunteer level.

    Mick says, “Sooner or later it has to dawn them that post GFA they lost.”

    The harsh truth, perhaps, is that many MLAs have anything but lost, despite the travails of the party. They’ve been literally quids-in. Lost? How many have moved from backroom jobs to public profiles; from low salaries with little private sector prospects to comparatively high salaries that have included budgets for hiring support staff, the makeup of which is at times eerily similar to their family and social circles. Lost?

    Sure, maybe the party is losing but how many individuals at Assembly Group level are thinking, ‘whoa, haven’t I done well mum, I’m a MLA!?”.

    That’s not a personal slight against those that may consider inheriting a MLA seat on the mandate no bigger than a middling weekend house party turn-out; indeed, fair play to them. The put their names down and knocked the doors.

    Many would make decent postmen.

    But I get a little frustrated with the line, “why can’t the SDLP see they’re in trouble?”.

    Because who are the SDLP these days? An aggressive political party united by a vision for change and a strategy for bringing it about, or a collection of extended families who have anything but “lost” in the post-GFA gravy boat that’s designed to en-trough every single person who could potentially destabilize from outside the tent.

    The point holds beyond the SDLP party too. Consider the disconnect between perceptions of Stormont from within vs. without.

    From without, any honest assessment says: 108 plus umpteen staff – frequently family and/or friends – an ever-flowing slush fund into NI from external sources entirely unrelated to the local economy’s productivity and what have we to show for it? Fleg All.

    But the view from within Stormont? If you had a job, title, staff and name recognition widly disproportionate to what you would have or be doing in any other sector, how bad would you consider it all? And how cynical must the knockers be?

    Is there a solution? More power and responsibility and fewer mandates.

    Weed the garden by shrinking the plot.

  • @Ruarai,

    I think you are on to something. I think that when a formerly powerful party drops below a certain point it fails to attract fresh talent. It only attracts the job seekers that you talk about. When the American Whig Party was collapsing before the American Civil War in the 1850s it collapsed very quickly when several key people realized that there was not enough of a party left to win them enough states with enough electoral votes to be elected president. They then jumped to either the Republican Party or the short-lived American Party.

    I think that after the veterans of the party retired after the collapse of the First Assembly in 2002, the party failed to attract a real quality line up. But it is even worse for the UUP, which after Reg Empey left and Ken Maginnis resigned from Westminster have failed to find real talent to replace them. So I think that we will be stuck with one major nationalist party, one major unionist party and the Alliance stuck in between them. And the DUP and Shinners are so practiced at playing off of one another to scare their respective electorates.

    @Alias,
    Although I have no doubt that all the various paramilitary organizations had psychopaths within them, they did not really have much higher than the general proportion of the population as a rule, especially within the two main IRAs. The UVF, LVF, and INLA are different matters as they seemed to attract violent types who loved committing mayhem.

  • ayeYerMa
  • ‘The SPAD bill is necessary to guard public safety, otherwise we risk another rash of murderers who all think they are destined for something better.’

    Like guys in the RUC, Special Branch etc? Thought as much.

    Getting back to the main focus of the piece, not the rights and wrongs of the legislation but the way that the SDLP did everything in their power to make this as tough as hell for themselves, they chose the hardest way through this and will get no kind of a pay off from the electorate on the matter. Whether they vote for or abstain will only act as a fig leaf for this whole sorry episode and as I’ve asked FJH himself, why does the SDLP deserve my vote if they are going to act this incompetently? It’s actually horrific to watch and if a one man band and a victim is able to cause this kind of trouble for an organisation I’d be in Connolly House now devising other things to trip them up with.

    A winner in this whole sorry affair? Jim of course, but I’d even say the Shinners are in a bizarre way happy with this, their opponents, the guys who look like priests on holiday and tell us how it was them that brought about the GFA are unpicking it now. I’d merely stand on a door step and say, look at Big Al, he doesn’t give a monkeys about those killed by state forces and is happy for them to keep collecting their pensions, your tax money. It’ll work for a few votes, not all. But worse still, how many people will simply not bother to turn out for the SDLP if we see some more of these type of awful performances?

  • I totally agree that the SDLP have been languishing in a comfort zone. I am also glad and relieved that they are, at last, being put under real pressure. In the longer term, this can only be good for Northern Ireland politics.

    The SDLP, if it has any sense, should use this crisis to re-define itself and start acting like a proper political party.

    If I was their party leader, I would be hitting hard at Sinn Fein’s ambivalence over abortion. As it happens, I believe that abortion is Sinn Fein’s achiles heal to a much greater extent than SPAD is to the SDLP

  • Gopher

    I do not share the optimism that the SDLP has bottomed out. The seats mention as just missed out were just missed out by 1000 votes and most of those seats they were reliant on transfers from Alliance and unionists not SF. The advent of Basil and Johns party, whether the pup will get a turnout and what happens to Alliance in relation to flags will govern the fate of the SDLP.

    Basically what will happen and is happening to the SDLP is nobody knowingly backs a loser. They will reach the tipping point within the next couple of elections and people will stay at home.

    I have been following the SDLP’s demise for a long time and each election defeat was blamed on not being more working class and more nationalist meanwhile the suburbs swelled and did not vote. it’s not rocket science.

  • Mick Fealty

    FC,

    That’s a point I made rather forcefully at the end of this post here: http://goo.gl/VpJHO

    ON there not being hierarchy of victims, there is no enforceable framework its pure aspiration (and given the waves from other victims groups this week), one that is unlikely ever to be realised.

    In other words, if there is no framework to enforce an non hierarchy we already have a de facto hierarchy of victims. Alex Maskey was interesting on this on Nolan earlier this year:

    Gopher, I refer you back to my original headline. 🙂

    You are spot on of course. Any one banking on a bottom out, without a serious overhaul, is dreaming the same old dream that brought them to this pass in the first place.

    Sooner or later someone is going to go looking for those suburban Catholic votes. If it’s not the SDLP it will be someone else, be it a northern FF group or Alliance or SF.

  • 241934 john brennan

    I agree most of the analysis above, especially Mick’s 31May, 9.51Pm post. If there were an election tomorrow many former SDLP voters would most probably abstain. Few may go to SF, but for many that would be anathema. Alliance is neither fish, nor fowl. The UUP is all over the place. For its stance on moral issues, apart from strict Sabbath observance, the DUP is solid and sensible, but the intolerant spectre of Ian senior still haunts the party and is off putting for Nationalists and Catholics.
    But there are no elections due in the immediate future. So there is time for the SDLP to get its act together. What it presently needs is a clear, succinct manifesto, detailing policies and targets – and crib sheet of approved answers/statements/comments – to be put out by trusted, competent and approved spokespersons.
    We used to joke about John Hume’s single transferrable speech, but that delivered coherent polices, understood by the voters – and delivered votes for the party.

  • Newman

    The SDLP as a party need to decide whether they wish to follow the secular/socialist emphasis currently headlined by Conall McDevitt and Alex Atwood or the christian democrat/social justice line exemplified by Alban Maginness. Their recent attempts to emphasise the former in the expectation that the latter constituency will stay loyal is misplaced. People will either stay at home or look elsewhere and given their other spectacular difficulties, it is remarkable that Alasdair is willing to take such risks with a large part of the core vote. The secular model is more clearly revealed in Sinn Fein and why the Leadership is willing to invest so much political capital to pitch themselves as ‘Sinn Fein lite’ is baffling.

  • 6crealist

    “…the post-GFA gravy boat that’s designed to en-trough every single person who could potentially destabilize from outside the tent.”

    The best quote in what is the best contribution I’ve ever read on Slugger.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I can see why Politics.ie have their own ego trip thread about this forum. Every issue is a big game that will decide an election one way or another, without a vote and without anyone asking. So often these games have been irrelevant with the electorate or ended with the hubris of the author.

    The decline of the DUP after the Robinson defeat as a game changing force, the Alliance breakthrough as a game changing force, the rise of UCUNF as a game changing force, the Sinn Féin defections in Fermanagh as a game changing force. Is this force by any chance friction? And the game hasn’t changed.

    The stories, the message, the zeitgeist, the big ideas, all homonyms and similes for the “game changing force”. Predicting the political game is useless, Alliance isn’t winning seats West of the Bann as its not competing as hard as its rivals are there, so what use is predicting the future decline of the SDLP based on nothing less than a personal bias in terms of political science.

    How would it feel if I predicted your demise?

    [Text removed – personal/category error – Mods]

  • Mick,

    ‘In other words, if there is no framework to enforce an non hierarchy we already have a de facto hierarchy of victims. Alex Maskey was interesting on this on Nolan earlier this year:’

    And how would that hierarchy look then Mick? Let’s all hear it. I think that’s an interesting opinion but I would actually disagree with you there (though granted, it much depends what you consider to be a victim) and further, while you have focused on how this bill was brought about (not on a whim etc. etc.) and noted that this is how legislation should be done (agreed) you have consistently ignored who this bill will effect the most, why is that?

    In relation to your clip, I’m sorry to go off on something of a tangent but as someone who never watches Nolan and out of the country now for a while he has got (physically) bigger than even I remember. Sorry if you’re reading this Steven, not meant as an insult but an observation.

    If you’re asking me for a definition of what a victim is in the North, well I don’t think the Shinners are going to get their way with former IRA combatants being classified as victims. In the way that they were victims of circumstance in the late 60s, early 70s etc. I would have to agree, however, these guys did make the choice to pick up a gun or program a bomb etc., but then again I note Steven picked this very specific and narrow example, we could also say how about an ex-RUC officer, these guys made the choice to join an organisation that was sectarian to its core and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries, if some of these guys were killed too for me they weren’t victims. So, for the moment how about we say that those either in a paramilitary organisation or state force should not be considered a victim as they rather pro-actively picked a side while the vast majority of people who suffered just wanted to go about their daily business?

  • Damn, I wish I could amend a post.

    ‘consistently ignored who this bill will effect the most, why is that?’, that’s actually unfair of me, but I would say you’ve downplayed who this issue will directly effect the most, why is that?

  • FuturePhysicist

    I think this whole section is a very bad read of the situation, brought about by the wishful thinking and hatred of the author, who’d prefer that society here fester under direct rule than struggle to work things out between ourselves. I see no difference between Mick and Paisley at his worse now, he claims to be a liberal but he doesn’t have one ounce of respect for local democracy, for real politicians who believe in hard work, listening to people … Not hard drugs and listening to Strategem.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2009/may/29/northern-ireland-european-elections

  • Mick Fealty

    FP,

    Please take another look at the conditions for commenting on this site. I’ve let a couple of things stand without comment (Including taking out just a small segment of very personal and objectionable remarks about my good self).

    Even my ‘liberal values’ have limits. Attack the ball not the man. If you cannot bring yourself to do that, take it somewhere where they actively encourage hate speech.

  • I didn’t hear the professors address the life experiences of SDLP and other elected representatives who fear a brick through the window or much worse should they not go along with a particular narrative that is being propagated in communities where the strong men hold sway.

  • cynic2

    FuturePhysicist

    FFS its a big Universe out there. Go out look at the stars and get a bit of perspective….and I speak as someone who walked out 6 months ago after a similar spat but have been lured back by the addiction

  • cynic2

    As for the SDLP they could learn a little from the analysis of Sir Richard Mottranm not so many years ago

    ” We’re all f***ked. I’m f**ked. You’re f**ked. The whole department is fu**ed. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fu**ed. ”

    Somehow that just seems so appropriate to todays SDLP

  • aquifer

    The news cycle is forever giving people second chances.

    A debate on the SPAD bill, whether or not it passes, gives the SDLP the chance to re-state that it is different from the party of militarist nationalism.

  • quality

    Absolutely fantastic post Ruarai.

  • CiaranM

    Alias, that is a reassuring view ‘They are attacking us because they are genetically evil.’ It is also happens to be wildly inaccurate. Both governments on each side of the Atlantic actively pursue foreign policy objectives in anticipation that they will directly increase the terror risk to their own public at home – after-all this is what their own intelligence agencies warned them. But safety of the population is just not a major priority for state planners in comparison to expanding control and accessing key strategic resources. There was never any jihadist attacks on Britain until the onset of the Orwellian named ‘War on Terror.’ If Britain was really serious about stopping the terror threat it would stop its own much more substantial terrorism abroad – something again that is completely unmentionable in the ‘free’ media.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Hardly unmentionable. Its said often. The Media just tends to be shy about saying it in the immediate aftermath of a jihadist attack but when the dust settles, the point is consistently raised.

  • CiaranM

    Hutz, If it is consistently raised then you will have no problem furnishing me with a list of examples of journalists in the BBC/ITV/Sky who have seriously examined this. There is a couple of honourable exceptions in the broadsheets, but they are tiny dots in an ocean of distortion. In fact, the corporate media play a crucial role as ‘complicit enablers’ in ‘normalising the unthinkable’ for the public. If the media had of done its job by exposing rather than amplifying US-UK state propaganda then over 1 million dead Iraqi’s may still be alive today. Look at Mick’s website – perhaps the main online hub of politics discussion in North – I cannot recall a single example of this being examined at all. When bloggers occasionally dabble their feet in the area of British-US foreign policy, they simply regurgitate the tired old power-friendly cliches of the so called mainstream.Plenty of ‘debate’ exists, but crucially, within very narrow ideological boundaries.