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.

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  • Granni Trixie

    I can’t see how sf will not suffer some loss in this election – many voters associate them with what’s gone wrong at Stormont.
    E.g. In the three areas in which I have canvassed time and time again people said “I can tell you which two parties i won’t be voting for”.

  • Granni Trixie

    He ‘done’ it on purpose.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Fair play to you for putting an actual number on it.

  • johnny lately

    Yes Granni im sure you remember them, you did say you lived in Brighton Street on another thread if im remembering correctly.

  • Ryan A

    Nope. We’re still working.

  • Jollyraj

    S’ ok – no doubt the Shinners will be demanding another one by about August

  • Zig70

    While I’d agree that SF don’t have the breadth to carry this through but there is nobody else in the game. FF seem to have choked at coming north and SDLP have lost the activism needed to compete. SF may just get carried along in the Brexit tide. A lot of us would choke if Adams claimed responsibility for nationalism tipping the balance but it doesn’t make it worth abandoning the goal.

  • Katyusha

    “The whole map of the world has been changed … but as the deluge subsides and the dust from the meteorite impact clears we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again.”

  • Skibo

    Unfortunately Granni as SF have been in government the shadow of incompetence seems to brush off but in defence, SF have been proactive in trying to make it work right up to the extent that they ware getting tarred with the scandals that seem to follow DUP no matter where they administer power.
    I believe SF voters will not be so easily fooled.

  • Granni Trixie

    Core vote yes but if Sf hoped to expand beyond that this is not the election where it’s going to happen. SB for instance is probably one of the most diverse hence MOM is dependent on transfers. For that reason in present context he is vulnerable. Next year when boundary changes kick in, who knows?

  • burnboilerburn

    I agree, I am surprised somewhat to see SF rise in the Lucid Talk poll. From the outset it has been my view that the parties likely to benefit from this would rightly be the middle ground such as Alliance and the Greens. If ever there was a reason for voters to swing away from the traditional Green/Orange tribal style politics we have become used to; the RHI scandal is it. And anyone who saw Naomi Long tonight must see that she is one person who genuinely can see across, through and beyond the divide.
    However, for SF supporters the arrogance and sectarianism of the DUP has somewhat overshadowed the RHI scandal which in turn seems to be driving their constituency to turn out and if the polls are correct, new Nationalist voters are opting for the sf over the SDLP, how it shakes down in the privacy of the polling booth is another matter.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The drop in the Nationalist vote has mostly been down to the SDLP. They have failed in the past to energise the vote and those looking for an alternative to Sinn Fein have looked elsewhere. What has happened in Belfast has been shockingly poor for SDLP. Clearly there have been voters looking for an alternative…but going to PBP or the greens.

    But therein lies the SDLP’s opportunity. The clear thing from the SDLPs performance is that when they do run an energetic campaign locally they can increase their vote share quite substantially. We see that in West Tyrone and Foyle and we have seen that in Lagan Valley and South Antrim (though not enough to win a seat). If they are learning the lessons in those constituencies and employing it in other areas, they can grow the vote and make gains.

  • file

    As yer man In Airplane (nearly) said: ‘Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up slugger o’toole.!’ Keep an eye on the ‘has wents’ for me, Granni.

  • file

    Why is it taken for granted that SDLP and UUP will not take up executive posts this time? Did they state that in their manifestos?

  • Skibo

    I find Naomi listenable as long as it is in small doses. When she rambles on a bit, not sure what it is about her voice but it gets a bit annoying. One thing I do like is how she discusses a policy on it’s merit and not on who the policy is coming from.

  • Skibo

    Why are SDLP and UUP putting forward the story that a vote for them puts SF and DUP out of government? Opposition is actually filled by opting out of government.
    the only way I could see one of the smaller parties taking on government would be if there was if the St Andrews Act was revised to state that if the largest party of either designation refused to nominate, then the offer would revert to the next largest.

  • Gavin86

    I believe the long slow decline of the SDLP will continue. In terms of looking for an alternative to SF; there doesn’t seem to be a reason for SF voters to switch to the SDLP.

    If the SDLP would end there long winding responses (thoughtful and well considered as they are) to questions it may help them connect with younger voters and voters who are not as engaged as most on here.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I think that this election is very dangerous for them. If they drop to single figures of MLAs which many commentators think they will just from the drop from 6 to 5 MLAs in constituencies then I think that’s a massive blow for them. It ends the idea that they and the UUP can replace Sinn Fein DUP. They’d need to find a new narrative.

    I hope that doesn’t happen though because I think they’ve run a very solid campaign.

  • Gavin86

    I agree, single figures will be the death knell for them. I would say though that they have been unsuccessfully searching for a narrative since the mid 2000’s.

    If you look at the election figures for the 1st assembly in 1998 they received just shy of 180,000 votes; albeit that was a high water mark. In successive assemblies the vote share has decreased along with seats, to just over 83,000 votes.

    So if the election is to be in anyway successful for the SDLP, the rot needs to stop. Words are easier than deeds, and this is all well versed already.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Dolores didn’t retire, she lost her seat.

  • Abucs

    Sinn Fein are just another secular left party caught in the grip of political correctness – no thanks.

  • mickfealty

    It depends on their performance and the proposed shape of the of the DUP/SF PfG (if such a thing ever sees the light of day again) surely? Who would be daft enough to put such a self denying ordinance in their manifesto. However, I think it’s safe to assume that since they were able to wreck the government in just seven months over an issue they’d already agreed to park, I don’t see the appeal of agreeing to come back for more of the same old mushroom treatment.

  • mickfealty

    Mark my words, SF are just recycling the SNP’s strategy. Tough words followed by quiet acceptance of May’s terms. They have zero bargaining strength here, but nor are they working to shape in NI’s and Ireland’s interests.

  • mickfealty

    If we’re all still lucky enough to be here then, we’ll speak again on these matters I hope?

  • mickfealty

    Unionists in FST and East Londonderry and North Down all voted heavily Remain. Let’s not rewrite history and forget West Belfast had the the lowest turnout in the UK? SF will play the optics for all they are worth, but there are even Democratic Unionist supporters who put more fight into the Remain campaign than the average SF activists.

  • mickfealty

    Nice bit of twisted twisted logic, don’t you think? You think they should vote DUP instead (who actually campaigned for Brexit)? Or do you believe that just voting unionist is against the spirit of the Belfast Agreement (which would itself be against the Belfast Agreement)?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interesting take, if highly inaccurate John. While I know that any possitive reading of the Irish honeymoon years with British Constitutionalism has to be “dissed” as a form of apathy, the massive IPP support levels from Parnell’s time speak of a general public in Ireland which was much more committed to a peaceful and constitutional settlement. It was the failure of Westminster to show any real backbone in confronting the northern Unionist challenge after 1912, and a developing culture of violence growing out of Unionist success in their rseort to arms which withered a massive support for Redmond and the IPP. The one thing it was certainly not, was “apathy.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Don’t mind her voice, but I did grow up on the fringes of leafy east Belfast with the “Arches” as a looming city gateway just a few miles from my home.

    The important thing is that she does discuss policy as policy, and if we had a full compliment of ninety who did so, we’d perhaps have government instead of stasis.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Of course the interviewees should prepare but what can anyone do against scarcasm and abuse? What, for example, could Eamonn McCann say when Nolan depicted him as wanting to nationalise Curly-Wurly factories? That line of questioning, designed to make the interviewee appear ridiculous, is next to impossible to deal with. Engage with it and you look silly, flare up and you look grumpy.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Their main issue is that they are “nationalist” party with half of their members unionist. Thats pretty much it in a nutshell

  • Skibo

    We should see shortly if the SNP strategy has zero bargaining strength or not. They have threatened Indyref mark 2 when Article 50 is actioned. The Ides of March are upon us!

  • Skibo

    Mick if this has been SDLP’s best campaign in 20 years, if they do not increase their mandate considerably, where do thy go now?

  • Skibo

    Perhaps but the UUP getting the export figure wrong by 50% in their literature, that is just wrong. Putting a politician out there with bogus figures, bad management. A google search would have given them the figure.

  • John Collins

    I had two relatives, Dr Robert Ambrose (West Mayo) and his first cousin Daniel (Louth), elected as MPs in the 1890s and I have to say on the occasions they were actually elected in a vote the turnout, even allowing for the restricted franchise, was very low indeed.Robert was returned unopposed on a number of occasions up the first election of 1910 and this seems to have been quite a common occurence at that time. Indeed the man that replaced him William Doris was also returned without a vote.
    From my point of view the IPP party, at least after Parnell, was a party that was too family based and had grown stale in politics by 1918. It achieved HR, but once this was thwarted it was in trouble.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well thats just onsense

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well thats just nonsense

  • Gavin86

    I think the main issue for them is there inability to connect with the working class vote within nationalist areas, admittedly all parties have this problem.

    But it is marked within the SDLP, how can they can expect to grow their vote share if they seemingly concentrate on a middle upper class vote, that has moved over to SF and possibly others; with no signs of returning, that is the main issue.

    Of course the same could be said, to a lesser degree for the UUP.

  • mickfealty

    Same place as last time.

    Survival is the only realistic objective this time. What they’ve tumbled to is that SF are politically vulnerable to pressure, particularly from them.

    The first time I’ve seen an SDLP leader draw blood was that line about how the only Permanent Secretary they were not allowed to see was Mairtin’s putative PS at Finance floored Michelle.

    Probably too late in the day to affect anything much in terms of the election but an indication to others in his party there’s more play in this game than many of them have presupposed. They need turnout to rise, and more cross community voting to take off.

    Hitting Arlene is good for tribal
    Morale, but the political dollars lie in hitting a party you can actually gain votes from. As we’ve seen from unionism competition drives turnout up. Complacency has been at the root of nationalism’s decline, if the SDLP wakes up that only be to the good of nationalism in general.

    Adams admission of his own party’s failures over ten years at its Cuige Uladh is hardly because unionism brought its A game: it’s been more like a B or C game versus a D or E.

  • mickfealty

    It’s not theirs to threaten unfortunately for them.

  • Skibo

    Mick, what an illogical thing to say! A union can be broken by either party. When, god forbid someone gets divorced, they do not have to ask their partner can they issue divorce proceedings.
    It would be a democratic suicide not to accept Scotland’s right to secede from the Union.
    Scotland can hold an independence poll any time she wants. What happens after that will be a different story. Debt will have to be taken into account.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While I’d broadly agree with you John that the IPP “was too family based and had grown stale in politics by 1918”, in 1914 the almost achieved Home Rule, and would have had Westminster shown more resolve. Their support in the 1910 election where they took 73 seats out of 103 hardly suggests “apathy” to me, but then I’m coming at this through the north primarily where Joe Devlin’s energised politics did not suggest any local apathy. The unopposed return of many seats was an indication of the strong support for the IPP there, certainly in the early yaers of the twentieth century, rather than any suggestion of a local apathy, to my mind.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Just 54% of people polled at their last party conference said they were in favour of a UI. Thats a fact Lionel

  • mickfealty

    Maybe so. But that’s for Mrs May to decide.

  • Skibo

    Mick I take it you have heard of UDI. I assume at some stage the UK accepted the independence of the USA or the breakup of Yugoslavia or the breakup of the USSR. On no occasion with these examples did the breakaway nation wait for the parent country to give permission to become a country.