Maybe SDLP leadership “got in wrong” Alban?

The SDLP is in a bit of a pickle at the moment with its council members in Newry and Mourne appearing to have refused the party whip over the naming of a park after local man and IRA Hunger Striker Raymond McCreesh.

The history of the park, the SDLP’s original support for its naming and the reaction to it has been well-documented elsewhere and I do not intend to revisit those issues in this column. What is interesting in this context is what appears to be the gaping chasm between the Head Office position of the party on the matter – it now supports renaming the park – and local representatives who voted with their feet and didn’t attend a meeting where such a re-naming might have taken place.

All politics is local. We all know this. The SDLP’s councillors in Newry and Mourne are the ones that are canvassing for the party on the ground day and daily, who know that a second preference vote is better than an outright no. In the communities where they canvass and work as public representatives, the McCreesh family are well-known and respected and anything that hints at disrespect for them would be a huge blow to the SDLP’s electoral results. There is no gaping chasm ideologically between Nationalism and Republicanism in an area like South Armagh, merely different shades of opinion – everyone is sound on the national question but differ on the best approach to achieving the same ultimate objective.

What’s most startling is that the position of the SDLP party HQ has the effect of making the party appear not to be nationalist at all and to be bowing to Unionist pressure, to not recognise that its roots, its policies and its identity has, in the past, been one of aspirational reunification of Ireland. If that’s no longer the case, then they need to have the guts to say so.

Alban Maginness on BBC’s The View last night said that the position of the Councillors in failing to attend the meeting, and in the case of the one member who did attend and abstained from the vote, had damaged the party. He said that it was “contrary to the position the party had established on this particular issue.” He said “they got it wrong.”

Maginness and party leader Alastair McDonnell might want to have a wee think about that. They might want to consider whether party HQ are the ones who’ve got it wrong and whose position is, in fact, more damaging to the party.

There is a huge difference between a diktat on how to vote handed down from head office and public opinion in the area – that is glaringly obvious from the mass non-attendance of councillors. Parties need to rely on their activists locally to gauge local opinion and if the SDLP’s councillors in Newry and Mourne have done that (one has spoken of her position in support of maintaining the name) then more fool the leadership for not listening.

But then again, perhaps it’s a lack of listening from the leadership that’s led to the continuing decline in the party’s electoral fortunes in the first place.

I’m fairly sure Margaret Ritchie and Justin McNulty weren’t anticipating having to deal with this as an electoral issue on the doorsteps of South Down and Newry-Armagh.

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  • Kevin Breslin

    He may have been involved in Kingmills he may not, but under British Law and British justice his major crime was attempted murder of security services. Paramilitaries both loyalists and republicans would have done so. I don’t regard policing as a sect, nor do I think a sectarian killing is any worse or better than any other kind of killing.

  • Kevin Breslin

    How many Green votes and Green supporters are going to come in the area from those who tried to kill Sinn Féin representatives in the name of Irish unity? Yes Sinn Féin commemorate killers, but so do the Orange Order, Apprentice Boys, Rememberance Day observers and several others.

    Just because unionists are taking offence doesn’t mean its greening, no one for instance accuses Mr “Agnostic on the Constitutional Question”, David Ford of out-Oranging the unionist parties when he called The Saville Enquiry pointless.

  • carl marks

    I’m taking the p*%s out of aber (the nationalist version of you) but I am enjoying your attempts to be righteous. in the past we have seen you act as a apologist for loyalist killers and it is amusing to watch you shroud wave and pretend to be anti terrorist, it would be a much more potent argument from you if you didn’t support loyalist killers!

  • I mean this in the least antagonistic way possible but the vast majority of research suggests corporate tax cuts have no positive impact on either foreign investment or on employment. In other words, it’s a move done in the interest of those at the very upper echelons of society.

  • chrisjones2

    Where have I acted as an apologist for loyalsit killers?

    Put up or shut up

  • chrisjones2

    Well? any more?

    I pointed out you were spewing sectarian propaganda as supposed truth and pointed you to original source material that helps show that. You respond by accusing me of supporting murderers. Where is your evidence?

    Again your posts are far more eloquent about you than anyone else’s issues

  • Julius

    That doesn’t make sense. The issue is McCreesh Park.

  • Julius

    “The basic issue concerning this controversy about the naming of the play
    park is that most Protestants just cannot accept parity of esteem.”

    It’s not. It’s about opposition (from unionists, anti-terror nationalists and others) to the glorification and attempted legitmisation of terrorism.

  • Spike

    seeing as both our Stormont ‘leaders’ have done a bit of jail time, is it really surprising that a play is named after someone else who did jail time? in truth the locals should be able to name the playpark whatever they want but then again some loyalist dominated fiefdom in east belfast could then be named ‘the michael stone memorial garden’. Personally as it is impossible to decide what constitutes an appropriate time for naming historical figures (1641, 1798, 1912, 1969……1999???) then either rename everything and ban all future potential naming problems…….or let everyone name as they please. Unfortunately SDLP seem to be yesterdays news which is extremely disappointing as they appear to be the lightest shade of green possible which can only hinder them. They have to decide to be Green and challenge SF on votes for irish language, culture and constitution OR just come out and say they have given up on the national question – at least they can attract the middle ground and give us a viable voting option. At the moment they look like the are the bland wallflower in stormont with no direction or leadership……which is a huge pity for us all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In Summary – Voters do not think for themselves they are at the behest of each casual whim of a party member… look at the numbers folks.

  • Kevin Breslin

    McCreesh isn’t standing for election. If the unemployment rate in Ballybot doubles should we rename Patrick Street, Connor Murphy Road?

  • Croiteir

    Nope – it was in reply to your assertion “that support for terrorism or for the glorification of terrorists is a necessary element of Irish nationalism?”

  • Steve Larson

    Alban and Alistair are just sub par politicians. Leave out the topic at hand or their beliefs and yours.

    Circumstances and chance have propelled them far above their ability. If there was a reasonable depth of talent in the SDLP, neither of them would have risen above town councillor.