Former GAA star to run for the SDLP in Newry and Armagh…

So the SDLP throw a ringer into the Newry and Armagh Westminster fight. He’s Mullaghbawn man Justin McNulty, whose major claim to fame is not politics but GAA. The man he’s contesting, Mickey Brady was himself relatively new to the game in 2007 when Sinn Fein took back the Newry seat they’d lost when Davy Hyland left the party.

I spoke earlier at length with Kevin McCallister on Q Radio in Newry:

It’s an interesting card to play, not least because there’s a strong sense the party has been losing ground in the GAA in rural Ulster. In any other party you’d say it was a gamble, but with the SDLP they have little to lose in this the last constituency they lost directly to Sinn Fein.

Brady’s candidacy is being interpreted as a means for Conor Murphy to return to Stormont from Westminster exile (SF MPs have no direct income of their own, and are deployed wherever and however the leadership sees fit) to Stormont having pretty much done what was asked of him.

It is probably fair to say that Brady at 63 years of age has been a solid enough constituency worker where he (like McNulty) was first brought in for his non party based social activism, but he is unlikely to set the world as a parliamentarian.

Unusually for such SDLP/SF faceoffs, McNulty at 39 is almost a whole generation younger than his SF counterpart. Interesting too that the SDLP candidate’s home base should be right in the heart of Republican south Armagh.

That said, there’s a 8000 Sinn Fein majority to overturn here. The realistic aim won’t be a Westminster seat, but to blood a replacement for Dominic Bradley and give him a round the constituency.

John Manley in the Irish News reports:

Mr McNulty ended a decade-long career with Armagh’s senior footballers in 2005. He has since managed a number of club and county teams, most notably Laois, where he was in charge for three years up to 2013.

A qualified civil engineer, he recently worked alongside brother Enda, who runs a sports performance consultancy in Dublin. While it is understood the Orchard County All-Ireland winner has had no formal links with the SDLP, he is thought to be a long-time admirer of both Seamus Mallon and John Hume.

One SDLP source last night claimed he would be a “very realistic prospect for Westminster”.

“He ticks all the boxes as far as the SDLP is concerned and will give Sinn Féin a real fight,” the source said. “He showed no quarter on the football field and I’d expect his attitude to be similar competing for this seat.”

More realistically though, cutting the majority may turn out to be the only key metric of his success or failure. McNulty’s (and the SDLP’s) key problem is that he is running for a party which has little or no discernible narrative other than ‘we’re not them‘. Prompting the question, ‘no quarter over what exactly?’

, , , ,

  • sean treacy

    Oliver McMullan is SF MLA for East Antrim.Are you seriously suggesting he is going to join the Stoops?

  • Tacapall

    Cant wait to see the reception the SDLP get in nationalist/republican areas in the coming months Im sure there will be many a door shut in their faces. Regardless who they put up they are finished and Sinn Fein will sweep the floor with them I might even be tempted to vote for them myself I feel so much hatred for the SDLP at this point in time.

  • sean treacy

    Sorry John, ARE YOU SERIOUSLY SUGGESTING HE IS DEFECTING TO THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC AND LABOUR PARTY?

  • sean treacy

    obviously so high profile that no one knows his or her name.

  • sean treacy

    the most high profile politician ever to represent the glens.

  • sean treacy

    For over 20 years ,Mcmullan is the only politician with ANY profile in this area.Dozens of SDLP reps have come and gone and no one could even remember their names.

  • Ernekid

    Since I’ve come of age I’ve voted for the SDLP at every election but I don’t think I will this year. The SDLP have given me no reason to vote for them and plenty of reasons not to. For me any hope for the future of the party left with Conall McDevitt, leaving the party with the grey old man McDonnell. I found McDonnell’s statement on the abortion issue appalling. IJP called it a ‘thundering disgrace’ on his blog and I found myself agreeing with him. Despite his party base clearly being socially liberal and pro choice as evidenced by polling at their AGM. McDonnell decided to persue the conservative Catholic vote, which is rapidly aging and declining and already firmly in the SF or DUP camp.

    I’m also worried by the SDLP shift on the NCA. I’m worried that they’ve opened the door for British political policing in NI. I’d rather that the PSNI cooperated more with An Garda Siochana than the British police forces.

    I’m a young left leaning middle class Nationalist from a Catholic background and I’ve given up on the SDLP. If they are losing their natural support who do they expect to vote for them. Running a token GAA guy isn’t enough to help them recover.

    What’s the point in sending a SDLP MP to Westminster? All Alisdair McDonnell seems to do is fall asleep in the House of Commons

  • sean treacy

    By the way John,I know quite a few people who have lost loved ones during the troubles and they would not recognize the SDLP as the victim’s champions.In fact any SDLP rep that approached them would be shown the door pretty sharpish.They remember that when others were highlighting collusion the SDLP were downplaying it.Even Brian Feeney admitted that the SDLP did not believe the collusion claims .

  • New Yorker

    Justin McNulty should be an impressive candidate. In addition to the GAA, he has a third level education, is an engineer and has business experience. He will take the seat in London where the really important decisions are made. As Hume and Mallon showed having influence in London can bring benefits to NI. London was the most important hurdle the GFA had to cross. London is where the budget is drawn up. Another educated and articulate SDLP MP at Westminster will be a plus.

    It is very possible Justin McNulty will attract the stay-at-home SDLP vote in the area which is sizable. The difference between SDLP and SF is that the SDLP does not believe in killing people to achieve political ends whereas SF do not condemn killing in the past or foreswear it in the future.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What other former Armagh GAA player? You mean bring Seamas Mallon out of retirement?

  • John Gorman

    Mckillop standing was announced about a month ago

  • tmitch57

    To get elected and begin to turn the fortunes of his party around he will have to have more in common with Dick Spring of Irish Labour than with Jack Lynch of FF. Although I believe that both of these were stars in cricket and football rather than in GAA. But even Irish Labour in the early 1980s when Spring joined and quickly became leader was not in such a doldrum as the SDLP is presently in.

  • SDLP supporter

    That is a complete and utter untruth, Sean Treacy. As John Mooney/Fitzjames horse as pointed out on many occasions, the only party which can approach matters like collusion with integrity is a party like the SDLP. Why? Because it was a dirty, dirty war and Sinn Fein and the Provo IRA were compromised, suborned and riddled from top to bottom with agents, double agents, informers, criminals and associated scumbags in high places like Steak-Knife, and so many others. That is why the late Gerry Conlon and Paddy Hill were and are happy to associate themselves with SDLP-sponsored events like the Mansfield night last week. They do so because, whatever their other defects, the generality of SDLP people are decent and honest.
    As for adducing Brian Feeney as evidence “that the SDLP did not believe the collusion claims”, don’t make me laugh. Tout le monde knows he hates the SDLP and is consumed with bitterness-it’s a bit like asking Martin Galvin or the late Ruairi O Bradaigh to provide a character reference for Gerry Adams.
    Brian Feeney never rose above the level of councillor in the SDLP and a lot of people in the SDLP did not quite have the same esteem for his abilities that he himself so obviously has.

  • SDLP supporter

    I should add that Anne Cadwallader, who I believe has written the standard work on collusion (confess I have not yet read it), made a detailed presentation on collusion at a recent SDLP Conference. She is no particular friend of the SDLP, and has never shown any particular warmth towards it, but I submit that she could never make a similar submission at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. Too many dirty, sordid, murderous secrets like, for example, who set up the Loughgall Five?

  • sean treacy

    SDLP SUPPORTER ,you can pontificate all you like but I can take you to dozens of houses where the stoops would be told to f off because they dismissed relatives claims of collusion .As for Anne Cadwalleder being anti SF ,now thats a laugh.

  • SDLP supporter

    Can’t you read? I never said Ms. Cadwallader was anti-Sinn Fein, nor anti-SDLP either.

  • SDLP supporter

    What on earth are you talking about? Dick Spring played a number of sports but, most notably, played rugby for Ireland, full-back, I think. His most infamous game apparently involved fluffing a high ball kicked to him enabling England to score a try (Andy Holmes?), win the game and maybe deny Ireland a Triple Crown). Legend has it that for years his Fianna Fáil opponents used to shout “butter-fingers” every time he arose to speak. It honed Dick’s savage polemical style and he was never slow to point out that he had at least played for his country.

    As for he late, great Jack Lynch (though I didn’t fully appreciate him at the time) he was one of the greatest hurlers who ever lived. He won, I think, eight All-Ireland medals for Cork in hurling and one for footballers. He was an automatic choice for the hurling team of the Millennium and the team of the century.

  • SDLP supporter

    As for your boast that you could bring me to houses where the SDLP would be told to f— off, I’ve no doubt you could, ST. I’d say it’s the sort of people you associate with alright.

  • sean treacy

    Aye the people I associate with would’nt be “the right sort of victims” !

  • hugh mccloy

    Looks like in the face of all the pact threats the SDLP have come out fighting, the stay at home voters could be a factor but maybe not enough, it would take a turnout of 70% going by voting trends for SDLP to dent SF’s lead

  • Zeno

    “I’m also worried by the SDLP shift on the NCA. I’m worried that they’ve opened the door for British political policing in NI.”

    What do you imagine they will do?

  • SDLP supporter

    ST, I agree. Anyone who has to associate with you is, by definition, a victim.

  • tmitch57

    I stand corrected, I never saw either of them perform on the sports field–Lynch was way before my time. I wasn’t sure, which is why I qualified my statement with “I believe.”

  • Kevin Breslin

    I do not imagine McMullan is the one he is talking about, the former Independent candidate has shown nothing to suggest he had any interest in campaigning for such a role for Sinn Féin nevermind the SDLP.

  • Thomas Girvan

    Why?

  • Thomas Girvan

    Of course the SDLP’s greatest claim to fame, Westminster wise, is that they were responsible for forcing the election that brought Margaret Thatcher into power.
    Gerry Fitt abstained on the vote of confidence for James Callaghan.
    History was changed.
    So don’t presume that Westminster representatives are worthless.
    By the way, who is IJP?

  • Starviking

    “Too many dirty, sordid, murderous secrets like, for example, who set up the Loughgall Five?”

    Maybe dirty, but I doubt it can be considered murderous or sordid to set-up murderers.

  • Tacapall

    Go ahead then tell us how far the SDLP have got in their efforts to expose collusion, how many RUC officers have they assisted in being charged with collusion in the murder of innocent people ?
    MI5 who are based in Hollywood are unaccountable to the Irish people, you would also agree they control agents within the various paramilitary groups who they allow to engage in acts of criminality in order to convince the informers comrades, that they are loyal to whatever paramilitary group they belong to, supposedly to save us all from death or injury. I guess you would also agree the PSNI, who are accountable, do the same but their actions have to be accountable to the policing board.
    This new Crime agency under the direct control of the British home office, the same home office who could and will at some point in the future introduce legislation that will change the remit and the power of this crime agency without either consulting or allowing the Irish people an opinion or choice.
    This Crime agency will also control agents in those various organasitions and individuals they would have us believe are a threat to our lives and livelyhoods, in reality it will be more of the same tactics used by British intelligence to further their own interests in Ireland, tactics that have resulted in the deaths or imprisonment of innocent Irtish people with no recourse to the law for other than obstruction, delays, whitewash inquiries, and broken promises with national security excuses to cover their trail. Your party sir will have to answer for its actions to the Irish people, we have suffered enough loss of life through the use of agent provocateurs and your party has rubber stamped another British security agency the legal right to do the same.

  • tmitch57

    Bosnia–the Dayton settlement of 1995–has lasted several years longer than the GFA and their war was much more vicious. So just because a political class in wretched does not make the whole settlement they participate in unstable.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Or Alex Kane and the Ulster Unionists.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sinn Féin haven’t announced their candidate for East Antrim but I would be surprised if it’s McMullan, SF are not going to take Sammy’s seat so their game is building profile of a potential successor for McMullan who is 62 and has been suffering from prostate cancer.

    I’d imagine the candidate would be Cllr. Patrice Hardy.

  • Kevin Breslin

    That’s the sort of turnouts that existed when the SDLP had over Sinn Féin in Newry & Armagh.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newry_and_Armagh_%28UK_Parliament_constituency%29

    Less people overall were registered, there may have been a bit of population growth in the area.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ian James Parsley. Alliance’s European Election? UCUNF candidate for North Down? Life in small business and local politics? Him off The Gaitherin?

  • Barneyt

    I doubt he will make a dent in this area (my locale), unless the recent religious pro-life fanaticism from the SDLP catches the mood here. Its a Sinn Fein stronghold here, for obvious reasons (natural hinter land) and also because the impact they have at local level is highly visible. Recent “British FBI” endorsement wont go down well either I suspect.

    Just a personal gripe…Mullaghbawn?…seeing that spelling always makes me feel queezy. Mullaghbane is much easier on the eye and stomach 🙂

  • hugh mccloy

    True to a point, SF represent 25% of those who can vote in the area and are very strong and should win hands down. There is the matter of about 30,000 none voters in an area that used to be a safe SDLP seat.

    As for the British FBI, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear and most people in NIre are working to busy working to pay the bills to be concerned

  • Barneyt

    Well, let hope things have changed. There was certainly a time where ant face could fit any crime. Lets see how this plays out. The idea that they may be accountable to the policing board would cause me concern.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Unusually for such SDLP/SF faceoffs, McNulty at 39 is almost a whole generation younger than his SF counterpart.

    Not like Mark H Durkan or Colum Eastwood being a whole generation younger than Raymond McCartney?

  • PaulT

    SF MEPs organised meetings in Brussels for Anne and a delegation to present on collusion. she also spoke at the SF summer school last year, and was interviewed for APRN,

  • New Yorker

    “the impact they have at the local level is highly visible” Yes the oozing cubes, polluted lakes and rivers, abandoned lorries are all too visible.

  • Ian James Parsley

    He’s a thundering disgrace. 🙂

  • Ian James Parsley

    If the SDLP can’t attract you, it’s hard to know who they will attract.

    As you imply, it wasn’t just McDonnell’s remarks, but the insensitive oafish way he went about them.

  • John Collins

    Tmitch57. Dick Spring was a once off Irish Rugby International Full Back, so he was not a GAA star. His brother Donal, was however a well established international player in that code. Ironically their father Dan, who was also a politician, was an All Ireland winning footballer. You are however quite wrong about Jack Lynch. He was the only man to win All Ireland medals six years in a row, and won them in both GAA codes, so he was the ultimate GAA player

  • John Collins

    Sory- The foregoing reply by SPLP says it all, although JL ‘only’ won 6 All Ireland medals (1941-1946 with the 45 for football)

  • tmitch57

    Since I’m an American I don’t follow Irish sports. My interest in the two is as politicians, who happen to have been former celebrity athletes, not in their sports careers per se.

  • Tacapall

    Neither can the SDLP, they are simply jumping on the emotional bandwagon of the victims suffering to further the political ambitions of those career politicians who are still under the illusion that the streets of London are paved with gold. Be serious its not that hard for anyone with a titter of wit to work out those involved in Sean Brownes abduction and murder were British agents ffs almost all loyalists were British agents using British supplied weapons. All your party have done is open the door to another British security service to have the same ability to create more victims the ability to engage in more acts of terrorism on the Irish people. You claim the NCA will be answerable to the policing board but why the loophole, why are matters relating to customs not answerable to the policing board, matters like the importation of weapons, drugs, human trafficking, either in or out of this part of Ireland.

  • John Collins

    Sorry. I thought you were from Northern Ireland. Simply both those were as good politicians as Southern Ireland ever produced regardless of their sporting affiliations.

  • Barneyt

    Perhaps there’s a broad church in the circle you reference, however I can only judge from what I see and the response they get. SF is actively bringing the dumping and pollution to the attention of various parties and social media outlets. That’s not consistent with being at fault.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well at least he isn’t one of these partisan keyboard warriors who don’t stand.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Jack Lynch ‘….as good politicians as Southern Ireland (sic) ever produced’….. Absolute nonsense. The after effects of his government’s 1977 manifesto were felt for decades afterwards. An appalling catalogue of the worst type of populism that was Fianna Fáil’s stock in trade.
    .
    However, Dick Spring was indeed a very capable politician though (incidentally Donal was a decent 8 and lock but not an established international, only played a few times more than Dick).

  • New Yorker

    Barney

    They know who is doing the dumping and protect them. If they wanted to stop it they could. While they make hypocritical and self-serving statements they know exactly who is doing the polluting and do nothing to bring them to justice.

  • mickfealty

    Kevin, Ian, John, ball not man chaps, please? 😉

  • mickfealty

    That’s not my narrative John. I can only go on the evidence available.

  • John Collins

    Well the electorate have to take most of the responsibility for the disastrous 1977 election outcome, after all they gave Fianna Fail an unprecedented 84 seats. I did not vote for them myself but that is democracy for you. They were roundly warned that removing rates from houses and tax from cars would have awful consequences, but they went, in their wisdom, and voted them in their droves

  • Ian James Parsley

    With respect John, if you want to defend McDonnell’s disgraceful and insensitive remarks made on your and fellow members’ behalf, go ahead and explain why you think rape victims should be denied abortions. Go on…

  • Ian James Parsley

    Heh heh – think I’ll take the “not stand” option for a good while now.

    Don’t vote can’t complain. I’m going to complain for a while… 🙂

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who are you? The owner of the place? Anyway I was the ball on my comment.

  • mickfealty

    Mind reading is not your forte John, I’d stick to the day job if I were you! 😉