SDLP not to ratify Stormont House Agreement

Interesting story in the Irish News that the party will not fully ratify the Stormont House Agreement. The party has reservations about the silence of the agreement on issues such as the Bill of Rights and the Irish Language Act. In addition to this, while the party recognises progress on Welfare Reform it still wants to more done to protect those in need.

More in today’s edition of the Irish News…

SDLP Statement;

The SDLP position on the Stormont House proposals was made clear when the negotiations concluded. The SDLP Party Executive and MLAs have both met since. That position remains.

There has been progress on some issues but the outcome is not comprehensive or decisive across all issues. The SDLP will work to protect and implement what is good and strong in Stormont House. We will also work to correct what is weak in Stormont House and make progress on the issues where Stormont House is far too silent, including a Bill of Rights, an Irish Language Act, a proper Civic Forum and to free up the potential of North South.

This is the only credible position to have. The people of Northern Ireland, who have been so let down, will see through any claim made by others that this is the ‘best agreement ever’.

The SDLP negotiated long and hard for a comprehensive agreement. This is the standard against which the SDLP judges Stormont House. We also believe it is the standard against which people across our community will judge Stormont House.

The SDLP acknowledges progress on the past but there is also a need for caution. The proposals lack the necessary detail to maximise confidence that any future measures will be all that is needed to ensure that the past is more fully addressed.

Critically, the need to properly assess policy patterns and themes has been further relegated from the standards of Eames Bradley and even those of Haass/O’Sullivan. The SDLP always warned that vested interests in state agencies and terror groups resist truth and accountability. On the issue of themes, the SDLP is deeply concerned that vested interests are getting their way.

The Parades Commission continues in place. It has served Northern Ireland well. It has been demonised for narrow reasons. The Stormont House proposals on parades lack any certainty both in terms of content and process. It is good that the commission remains. Stormont House now creates the means for others to continue to make mischief.

The SDLP has long held the line on welfare reform. While others told the SDLP to swallow hard and while others faltered on holding the line, the SDLP approach has now been vindicated. There is more money and more protections than before but the threat of much of welfare reform endures. That is why the SDLP will continue to seek protections for those in need.

This will have multiple dimensions. We will look to other parties to support our amendments to put additional protections in place in the Welfare Bill that will shortly come before the Assembly. We will also continue to make the argument in London, including with the Labour Party, not least in run down to the Westminster election and beyond, about the welfare needs of people in Northern Ireland. The SDLP will keep the campaign going, not least because the scale of what the Tories plan on welfare, if re-elected, carries grave risk to so many of our citizens.

The parties together made an argument to London for new monies to deal with budget gaps and our community’s needs. That argument has not been fully accepted and certainly not fully funded by London. Indeed, any monies that are available mean a lot of new borrowing and with continued demands from London to shape our public services in the image of Tory dogma. The SDLP campaign on budget will continue and will have a number of dimensions. This will include continuing to campaign to convince the London parties, not least the Labour Party with the forthcoming Westminster election, that our budget needs are different in Northern Ireland and this needs to be recognised in our block grant.

This approach will inform what the SDLP does in terms of the budget for next year, that will be the subject of debate in the next month, and the budgets of coming years. Many of the messages coming from the London Parties indicate that whatever parties form the next government, austerity will be part of their agenda. Given this and the failure of London in the Stormont House negotiations to fully recognise the needs of Northern Ireland, the SDLP will continue to fight the argument for the people of Northern Ireland. We’ll do it in next year’s budget and all the other budgets that come thereafter.


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  • chrisjones2

    it still wants to more done to protect those in need..

    Great. So its going into opposition then? or just cannot decide?

  • Ernekid

    The SDLP are compounding their irrelevancy.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    For such an important statement, it’s very badly written!

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I think the SDLP are making a mistake, similar to the mistake that Alliance made a year ago when it was initially cold over the Haass agreement. The progressive-ish centre in NI politics do not like hearing “no” and they may rightly see failure to back a deal, however imperfect, as political cowardice.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Implementing the positive aspects while being wary of its incompleteness is also the Alliance Party’s position. The media described this as “ratification” (which, as Catcher in the Rye points out, may be no bad thing).

    As for the section of “welfare reform”, the SDLP’s position is the precise opposite of “vindicated”. Thanks to SF, the SDLP and NICVA we have handed nearly £200 million back to the Treasury which could have been spent on people here (on “mitigation” if we wished). And now we’re implementing it anyway!

    Economic unreality is now costing us services and jobs. Time the electorate woke up and realised it was sold a pup.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Any statement containing the word “monies” should head straight to trash without passing go!

  • David Crookes

    Indeed, Ernekid. As their relevance diminishes, their pompous self-importance expands exponentially.
    What the SDLP needs more than anything at the moment is clarity. Self-indulgent obfuscation and ambivalence are signs of a party in terminal decline.
    IJP is right to pick on the word ‘monies’. If you expect to impress anyone by saying ‘monies’, you’ve lost it.

  • chrisjones2

    It wasn’t sold a pup. It got a pup because of the incompetence of the parties concerned. But it doesn’t matter – because the voters will be told its a fine big Irish Wolfhound in full health and wearing agren white and gold coat so they should vote Stoop or SF ….Irish ….wolf….Irish ….wolf ….tricolour

    ANd they will

  • Morpheus

    The SDLP trying to put clear blue water between them and the Shinners in time for the elections no doubt. Risky

  • chrisjones2

    including a Bill of Rights, an Irish Language Act, a proper Civic Forum and to free up the potential of North South.

    None of which will happen and which we cant afford anyway. If you want all these how will you pay for them? ‘This is the standard’ by which us punters judge you

    The SDLP has long held the line on welfare reform.

    ….on the side of the lazy feckless who cannot see that reform is needed

    “That is why the SDLP will continue to seek protections for those in need” of votes

    “continued demands from London to shape our public services in the image of Tory dogma” by living within our means

    ” whatever parties form the next government, austerity will be part of their agenda.” which negates 95% of our cunning plan before we get started

  • chrisjones2

    It reflects party divisions, a lack of leadership control, vision and basic competence.

  • Jag

    So, three weeks after the SHA, which parties have in fact “ratified” the SHA?

    SF is probably closest with its Ard Comhairle approving the SHA. I still think there is trouble ahead in the coming hours and days (not even weeks) as the precise changes to social welfare are nailed down. The UUP said in their statement before Christmas after the SHA “When we pressed Sinn Féin last week to tell us who they wanted to protect from Welfare Reform and how they wanted to do it, they finally produced their Wish List and lo and behold, it was a set of proposals we could support and which the Executive could afford without further assistance from Westminster, which was clearly never going to happen” Where is that SF “wish list”? Has there been another giant balls-up in SF, I just can’t see how they’re squaring the circle. During previous balls-ups, like their unexplained petulance towards the selection of the ACC last year, SF could just stay schtum and allow the episode to pass, but the rubber is going to hit the road on welfare reform in weeks, and SF will need defend their apparent abandonment of the “most vulnerable in society” in the coming days.

    DUP has indicated it has yet to agree the SHA (Nolan show 10 days ago), APNI and SDLP seem to have adopted the same cherrypicking position which is tantamount to – and let’s call a spade a spade here – a rejection of the agreement.We haven’t heard much else from the UUP since its post-talks statement “The Ulster Unionist Party will take the proposed Stormont House Agreement to the Party Executive, which is the decision-making body, for debate and decision as soon as possible.”

    The micro parties outside the room have been reacting negatively overall (though like the APNI and SDLP have cherrypicked some aspects which they embrace, and again, that’s tantamount to a rejection).

    So, three weeks after the SHA, only one party representing 25% of the people in NI has “ratified” the agreement. The Stormont House Agreement? The Stormont House Agreement Tergiversated, more like.

  • mjh

    It reads more like a speech than a statement. I’m guessing it was probably dictated not written.

    Either it was not reviewed by the party’s press office before it was released, or the person or persons who composed it were too senior to be challenged, or were sufficiently senior to feel free to ignore advice.

    For example, what does “the need to properly assess policy patterns and themes” actually mean? Apparently it’s “critical”
    Behind the jargon I think the main message is:

    “Sinn Fein are telling you that this agreement safeguards the poor and disadvantaged. That is not true – the cuts are still coming.

    “The only thing that could stop even more cuts would be a Labour government which depended on SDLP support at Westminster. We would only give that support in return for enough money to meet Northern Ireland’s needs.

    “If you are a Nationalist and you want to stop the cuts your only option is to vote SDLP.”

    Why did they not just say so?

  • Jag

    As an SDLP member, do you accept that the SDLP position is a rejection of the SHA? That is, the SDLP cherrypicks some aspects and embraces them, but doesn’t accept other aspects. Acceptance of the agreement would require acceptance of the entire content of the agreement.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Well, if we’re playing this game:

    It’s not clear to me what the “position” referred to in the first and third paras is. The second para, whch is where we are signalled to look for that “position,” is a report on the Agreement and a draft workplan. I would have expected a “position” to be a bit clearer, and to report on one’s own location rather than others’ location and one’s own anticipated movement.

    Awful wording throughout: “free up the potential of North South”, “the issue of themes”, “in run down to the Westminster election” (surely “the run up” was intended?), and as Ian points out “monies”.

    Your summary, mjh, is pithy. I would add that 1) the statement isn’t very heavily Nationalist-slanted, so those who wrote it may believe (incorrectly) that it might appeal also to moderates and moderate Unionists, and 2) it completely omits the SDLP’s most obvious unique selling point vis-a-vis SF as far as Westminster elections (and no others) are concerned, ie that they will actually take their seats and vote in Parliament.

  • Morpheus

    Not really Jag, look at the GFA. There were aspects in there that nationalism were and weren’t happy about, ditto for unionism, but it still went ahead…the difference here of course that this isn’t going to the people in a referendum.

    Alliance said they weren’t happy with Haass but still voted for it when it got to the Assembly floor for debate. Even though they weren’t happy with it in its entirety it was a start. Maybe the SDLP will do the same after debate on the assembly floor? Who knows at this stage?

  • Jag

    Oh, and not once does the statement refer to the SHA, or Stormont House Agreement as it has become known. The SDLP refer to “Stormont House” and to “Stormont House proposals”.

  • chrisjones2

    the SHA = I support motherhood and apple pie …..

    We all agree on that but my recipe for the pie may be different from yours and yours may be a lot more sugary than I can stomach and far too expensive for me to afford

  • Jag

    That seems harsh, I use that term “monies” all the time, interchangeable with “funding” or “finance” which I also use. Maybe it’s a local thing like “wise yer bap” or “how’s she cutting”

  • Framer

    Big Al gets a quarter of a million for staff and support. The result is an out of date website and a policy statement put together by an intern.

  • aber1991

    Does it matter what the SDLP supports or does not support?

  • aber1991

    “the SDLP’s most obvious unique selling point vis-a-vis SF as far as Westminster elections (and no others) are concerned, ie that they will actually take their seats and vote in Parliament.”

    That is a very true statement BUT be careful. This “unique selling point” could go up in smoke if (when) Sinn Fein take their seats and start using Parliamentary Privilege to name people who have been guilty of oppressing Catholics.

    For too long the SDLP has acted as the Dublin government’s ambassadors in Northern Ireland. It has, consequently, been blamed for the often anti-Catholic behaviour of Eire politicians – especially that of Garret Fitzgerald, John Bruton and Ruairi Quinn. The SDLP has declined to give tribal leadership to the Catholic people of Northern Ireland. As a result, it has forfeited all right to tribal loyalty. In a tribal society, that is a fundamental weakness.

    I used to be a hard core SDLP voter. I complained very many times about the party’s failure (refusal) to articulate the gut feelings of the oppressed Catholic people of Northern Ireland. I often complained to Austin Currie and Sean Farren, less often to Paschal O’Hare, Cormac Boomer, Sean Hollywood, Paddy Duffy, Seamus Mallon and John Hume. All to no avail. The responses followed a familiar pattern “What you say is true and many other supporters of ours make those same complaints but we cannot fall out with the Irish government.”

    Eventually I lost heart and stopped voting for the SDLP. My last vote for the SDLP was in the European election of 1979.

  • aber1991

    What you say is true but you are not the right person to say it. You are a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, an elected representative who has indulged in anti-Catholic activities.

  • Ernekid

    Agreed the SDLP website is garbage.

  • Ian James Parsley

    There’s nothing wrong with “money”!

  • Ian James Parsley

    Not really.

    They haven’t worked that out yet. If they did, it could be turned to strategic advantage.

  • Zig70

    You’re not thinking with a nationalist hat, on taking your seats being a selling point. It has little value. The obvious difference was a lack of support for armed insurrection and a more Catholic centred politic. One might have hope that the difference would become a centre-left v hard left politic and a professional class that could show leadership but the second part of that fell down it’s own civil rights arse.

  • notimetoshine

    You made an interesting point “if(when) sf take their seats…”. Do you think that they will? I always thought that was a definite no no for sf. I admit to not knowing too much on the subject, but if they did would it hit the SDLP hard?

  • notimetoshine

    Is this meant for public consumption? Or is it aimed at the political commentariat? It reads like stereo instructions.

  • aber1991

    “I always thought that was a definite no no for sf.”

    So was taking their seats in Stormont. Now they are enjoying the perks.

    So was taking their seats in the Eire Parliament. Now they are using parliament to put their opponents crazy.

    I do not know how hard the SDLP would be hit by a change in Sinn Fein policy towards attendance at Westminster.

    P.S. I think Sinn Fein will never become a main player in Eire until it becomes an anti-immigrant party. Unfortunately, at present Sinn Fein policy is being dictated by a shower of looney lefties in Connolly House whose heads are up their you-know-whats.

  • Zeno

    I bet they were devastated to lose you.

  • aber1991

    So you have resorted to insult. Typical Stater.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It costs nothing to remove some restrictions on North South co-operation and very little to fund a Civic Forum in comparison to the much more expensive multiple current consultations it could replace. Oh and if IJP is going to nitpick this, both these policies are in the APNI manifesto too, as is the Bill of Rights I believe.

    If we had a Bill of Rights back when Mark Durkan was talking about the ugly scaffolding we could have implemented a lot more institutional reform, likewise an Irish (or Irish-Ulster Scots) Language Act in good faith and in line with language acts in Scotland and Wales. The discrimination against the Irish language is not carried out to save money, but for party political reasons by the DUP.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So it doesn’t matter that Alliance do not either then in your opinion?

    Matters to some, could be the kindling of the Sunningdale parties leaving the coalition in some form, given all three have been critics.

    Maybe DF could stay on as justice minister party independent as Alliance speakers have been.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Stormont House does mention Gaelige in terms of the European Charter of Minority languages which Irish is in the UK. Does anyone in the DUP have an answer as to what the party actually does in support of that given the issue is part of the Stormont Agreement they had made?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    taking your seats being a selling point. It has little value.

    Not mutually exclusive assertions! I’m grasping at straws on the SDLP’s behalf here!

    a lack of support for armed insurrection and a more Catholic centred politic

    The first is now almost 20 years out of date; I’m not actually convinced by the second, the only candidate that ever canvassed me at the chapel gate was a Shinner (specifically, Cyril Toman in 1982; I was too young to vote then).

    One might have hope

    Too true!

  • Morpheus

    Gregory Campbell has an answer:

    “On behalf of our party let me say clearly, and slowly so that Caitríona Ruane and Gerry Adams understand, we will never agree to an Irish Language Act at Stormont and we will treat their entire wish list as no more than toilet paper. They better get used to it.”

    And Edwin Poots made it quite clear in an interview with David that his greatest achievement – ironically while Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure no less – was ‘burying the Irish language act’

    I think that speaks volumes.

    It looks like they failed in an attempt to prevent the Fermanagh and Omagh Council stationary/branding being bi-lingual though.

  • Dan

    I’m stunned they’ve used ‘Northern Ireland’ so often in the statement.

  • Jag

    “While money generally functions in collective senses (we made a lot of money on that deal), moneys is frequently used, especially in financial and legal contexts, to denote “discrete sums of money” or “funds” (many federal and state moneys were budgeted for disaster relief).” Garner in Modern American Usage

    I’d be surprised if there weren’t similar usage conventions on this side of the Atlantic, and I certainly use the term “monies” in a funding sense as a “discrete sum of money”, though I also use “funding” and “finance”. The reason I wouldn’t use “money” in the above context, is that the passage is referring to discrete allocations of money, and “monies” would be more appropriate.

    It all depends on your circles I suppose. I once deeply offended an Englishman by asking where he had been “born and reared” and his response was “are you calling me some dumb animal” – the English (Norfolk) use “born and raised”, I understand.

    Oh, and “how’s she cutting” or “how’s she riding” is “hello” for menfolk down our way. Irish Language Act, maybe we need an English Language Act!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Poor Poots! I think of him speaking at the opening of the small F. J. Bigger exibition at the Central Library a few years trying to say that FJB was an Ulster Scot!!!!! Frank was the secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge in Belfast (back in the days when the minutes were still in English, that was, as Frank, while a great supporter of the language movement, anecdotally had almost as poor conversational Irish as me).

  • chrisjones2

    Nice to see a good does of tribalism. Makes a change for racism or sectarianism …..oh…. wait

  • chrisjones2

    …anybody got a violin

  • chrisjones2

  • chrisjones2

    Ah so you ARE racist as well ……… and aside from the sheer twittery of that , what will happen if the countries where the Irish are currently emigratng to take the same stance.

  • chrisjones2

    you are not the right person to say it.

    Ie not Catholic?

  • notimetoshine

    Surely justice will gave to change and be given to one of the other four? Or would this precipitate another crisis?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The day Northern Ireland electorate can trust a justice minister from Sinn Féin or the DUP to be accountable, or until Sinn Féin and the DUP can both trust either the UUP or the SDLP with the role.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SDLP, UUP and Alliance say they will back the key issues to ensure progress is made. The outstanding issues from SHA are open season.

  • notimetoshine

    I’m not sure about the first, but I don’t see the second being something that will happen in the near future. So it’s alliance or what? Crisis and talks I I suppose?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Let’s just say I haven’t ruled out a local unelected technocrat. The NIO would not be a popular option for unionism, nevermind nationalism who’ve been a more vocal critic of the NIO.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I’m ready to be corrected on this, but I think the Justice Minister, as with all other ministers, must be a member of the Assembly.

    (Which is itself a rather absurd limitation – but nowhere in the British/Irish archipelago has the legislature ever been properly separated from the executive branch!)

  • Kevin Breslin

    Arguably that does exist when there is no executive, such as post election and also the failure to form a government. The bizarre sight of Brian Lenihan Jnr representing the Cowan government proposing the Fine Gael-Labour coalition get sworn in is an example of that. Private Members Bills and Early Day motions are arguably extra-executive.

    I’m sure someone as politically aware as yourself also knows the judiciary was separated from the House of Commons by having the Lord Chancellor role remain in the House of Lords, and both UK Lords and Irish Senators have been appointed to cabinet positions up until very recently, and in the case of the Lords still today.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Naturally I am discounting both upper houses as being part of the legislature.

  • Makhno

    That’s what I thought, North Korean technical manual.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So were the UK government fines a means of making (a post-Barnett) profit for the Treasury or were they an audit on spending money we could have spent on public services on mitigating cuts to welfare instead?

    Whether it was spent on public services or on welfare it was spent on people here, if that is not the case then the UK government is reducing the money spent by Northern Ireland politicians not as an audit on the additional money we chose to spend on welfare above parity but in order to simply increase its own reserves by squeezing the Barnett subsidy anyway.

  • Jag

    ICTU has now come out in strong opposition to the SHA/P (the “P” stands for “proposals” which is how the SDLP characterises the result of the pre-Christmas talks)

    ICTU claims the deal will result in 20,000 public sector losses (that’s around 10% of the total), and there is a planned day of action in March.

    ICTU is now throwing SF’s language back into its face – “austerity doesn’t work”, “stop Tory cuts in Northern Ireland”. SF has expended considerable effort sidling up to the unions. After all, SF is a left wing party, and there isn’t a left wing party in the world that makes it into power without the support of the unions. And now, it seems SF is on a collision course with the unions.That alienation of the unions will cost SF in the Republic.