Can Nationalism bounce back in #ae17?

The Irish News Political Correspondent, John Manley has an interesting analysis piece in todays paper about the state of play within Nationalism

He writes;

Commentator Chris Donnelly has characterised this trend as the “nationalist malaise”.

He believes its roots lie in the fact that the nationalist-republican community has become more contented within Northern Ireland.

For those who believe changing demographics will ultimately deliver Irish unification, this electoral apathy is a deep concern. On the evidence of recent election results, the prospect of the secretary of state calling a border poll any time soon are slim, to say the least.

So can the two dominant ‘green’ parties arrest the decline of recent years and demonstrate that the aspiration of a united Ireland remains relevant?

But what about the two main parties?

Sinn Féin may have lost a key figure in Martin McGuinness but they insist the party has been re-energised by Michelle O’Neill’s recent appointment as northern leader.

It is also hoped anger at Arlene Foster over RHI and the Irish language will drive more supporters to the polling booth.

But while the party’s election slogans may focus on the DUP, in the ground war People Before Profit is its main target.

Party insiders concede that Sinn Féin has taken its eye off the ball in terms of community activism, concentrating its efforts on the ‘establishment politics’ of Stormont and council chambers.

The recent street agitation around the Irish language, for example, is seen as one way of redressing this neglect of its grassroots – but has it come too late?

The SDLP, meanwhile, believes it too is revitalised with leader Colum Eastwood now 16 months into his tenure.

The election last May of new faces such as Nichola Mallon, Colin McGrath and Daniel McCrossan has also introduced a new generation of representatives who have savoured their role in Stormont’s new opposition.

However, the fact that two SDLP veterans who retired last year – Dolores Kelly and John Dallat – have decided to run again suggests the party’s renaissance as yet lacks depth.

With Brexit looming and an increasing likelihood of a second independence referendum in Scotland, politics across these islands is clearly in a state of flux.

The last thing northern nationalism needs at this juncture is for most of its supporters to stay at home.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

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