Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The SDLP - Searching for Role

Feb 9th 10

Sometime when I get a chance this Blog intends to have a look at the SDLP and its role in politics on this island. For now on a sunny Tuesday afternoon such an enterprise is beyond me. It is suffice to say that the SDLP is a party in search of a role.

The weekend saw Mark Durkan retiring as party leader. I wish him and his family well. If he gets elected at the next Westminster election he has signaled his intention to retire from Irish politics. There is no other explanation for his announcement that he intends to work only as an MP. In other words Mark has made a career choice.

The political trajectory here is increasingly about moving all decisions and decision making process effecting this island, onto the island – and away from politicians in Britain.

Mark is opting out of this. Unless of course he fails to retain the Foyle Westminster seat. Whereupon it is clearly his intention to retain his Assembly seat.

Such inconsistencies are nothing new. Some time ago the SDLP signaled its intention to join Fianna Fáil. In effect that means winding up and disbanding the SDLP. Not everybody in the party appears to have been consulted. Some stated as their preference a merger with the Irish Labour Party. And so it went. To and fro.

Now the SDLP has a new leader. In a narrow contest in which the party divided almost even-stevens Margaret Ritchie was elected to lead. I wish her well. The Captain of the Titanic had an easier job.

In her first public remarks after her election as party leader Margaret made it clear that the SDLP’s main opponents, as opposed to electoral rivals, are Sinn Féin. Many people will be disappointed that she didn’t see the British government or indeed the unionist parties in this light.

So, this is the context post the agreement at Hillsborough in which the SDLP’s attacks on Sinn Féin’s efforts to advance the rights of citizens should be seen. It is entirely self centred, party political and opportunistic.

The fact is that Sinn Féin has made a temporary arrangement with the DUP until 2012 to ensure that the legislative Assembly can legislate on policing and justice issues. As part of this we have set aside Sinn Féin’s rightful claim to the Justice Ministry in return for the DUP doing the same.

The SDLP are now saying that they want d’Hondt to be run. The fact is that if this were done the SDLP would hand the Justice Ministry to the DUP.

When Mark Durkan was SDLP leader he said that he wanted d’Hondt run across all parties. Margaret Ritchie appears to have a different position.

If Sinn Féin had listened to the SDLP there would be no agreement on the transfer of powers on policing and justice and these powers would have remained under the control of an unaccountable British Minister.

Sinn Féin’s focus has been on ensuring that the transfer of powers takes place as early as possible and on terms acceptable to the broad community.

Our goal was to get justice and policing powers shifted out of London and into the hands of locally elected politicians accountable to citizens here.

The SDLP voted in the Assembly for interim arrangements. Having voted for these what are they complaining about?

The interim arrangements have been agreed until 2012.

They require cross community support.

This is the best means by which we can ensure the widest possible community support. Sinn Féin is prepared to vote for an SDLP nominee.

The agreement at Hillsborough has set April 12th as the date for the transfer of powers. This is a considerable achievement.

If it had been left to the SDLP it would never have happened.


Micheal said...

In trying to say something about the SDLP, I can only come up with a blank apart from that John Hume was an interesting character who smoked like a chimney aparrently.

Career politicians give an implicit acknowledgement to the status quo and have no capacity to challenge injustice or inequality as a result of that.

They chug along on the gravy train believing in the propaganda of wealth accumalation which promotes a vision of individualism. Until, that is something goes terribly wrong.

Then they're caught out in no-mans land and the dream's become a nightmare and no-one's really accountable or responsible or seems to be able to help.

That's when they realise what's gone in the meantime. They spot the con too late. Too late. The Gobalooks.

Timothy Dougherty said...

Gerry,"This is a considerable achievement." More than that , a very great move ,for the National independence movement.Irish resources have been used to subsidize capitalist,both foreign and domestic.
At no time has there been a serious effort to use these resources for the gainful employment and benefit of mass of Irish people.It is Sinn Féin who can make this happen , not the SDLP.
As Padraig Pearse's wrote:"the Nation's sovereignty extends not only to all mean and women of the nation but to all material possession of the nation , the nation's soil and all its resources, all wealth and all wealth producing process within the nation." The political wealth of the nation is now clearly in the hands of Sinn Féin.We trust that good against the public rights to secure strictly equal rights and liberties to every man and woman within the nation.

Concubhar said...

It's fair enough to ask questions about the SDLP and its future role - but it appears petty and partisan given that the SDLP comeback is a long way off.

What I want to know - and many other Irish speakers too, I'll bet - is what was negotiated in respect of the Irish language at the Hillsborough Agreement last week.

What does a 'process to progress the rights of Irish speakers' actually mean?

It's fair enough to point out the inconsistencies of other parties - however SF has a few inconsistencies in its own closet. Its avowed support for the Irish Language Act and its apparent jettisoning of the concession from St Andrews this time around is but one of them.

Sinn Féin needs to be a party that does more for the Irish language than the 'cúpla focal'. It's time to deliver on the promises made so many times previously.

Paul Doran said...

What do Sinn Fein stand for.We all share the longing for Irish Unity.the Gra for the Language

Where does Socialism stand within SF.

Anonymous said...

well done gerry A ,KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK..................

A big shot is just a little shot who kept on shooting.
--Zig Ziglar

Consider these words of Calvin Coolidge: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is filled with educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are alone omnipotent. 'Press on!' has been and always will be the answer to every human problem."

Coolidge was right. In the successful pursuit of a vision, persistence always makes the difference. Colonel Sanders approached 1,094 restaurants before he found someone who would try his recipe for fried chicken. Thomas Edison made over 2,000 attempts before he invented the light bulb. Abraham Lincoln failed in two businesses and lost five elections before he became president.

The ability to persevere in the face of adversity takes a special kind of faith. It's easy to get discouraged when obstacles appear. If you are in such a situation, know that time is on your side. Time plus sustained effort always produce results. After waiting 33 years to win the world championship, a coach was asked, "Was it worth the wait?" "Absolutely," he replied. "In fact, the long delay actually made the victory sweeter."

Anonymous said...

Socialism stands with its members, within its policies and campaigns.

If you turned up to a few meetings, campaigned with us is Dublin, you'd know that.


Anonymous said...

Gerry, although the SDLP may claim to see SF as opponents, isn't it now the case that your policies are 99.9% the same - both socialist parties (remember John Hume's efforts 40 years ago with the credit unions - now there was a man for whom equality of opportunity meant everything), both seeking equality for all citizens, both seeking non-violent and democratic re-unification. Who can make the first move to see if the two parties can work more closely together - East Londonderry and North Belfast might be the first two short-term successes. You know I watched QT the other night and whilst the three unionists (David Trimble is still a unionist, isn't he?) getting red-faced and taking potshots at each other, the bodylanguage of Gerry Kelly and Margaret Ritchie seemed almost mirroring. Does the SDLP really want to get swallowed up in the oceanic system that is FF or Labour - surely it makes sense for a sincere pact or more to deliver real government in which the SDLP can play a central part. Mise le meas, Tadhg O' Caoimh