Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The end of the line for the SDLP?

The piece below was received recently and is published below.

In January 2009 Mark Durkan MP said in his key-note address to the SDLP “Deep in me is a belief in this party and the people in it. We have it in us to recapture lost votes and recover lost ground”...then collapse. Mark Durkan had his head in the clouds. He was speaking to a party on the road to collapse with no political direction. What kind of a leader steps down at a cross-roads for its party when it is slowly splintering? A weak one. A strong leader would have taken the party beyond the cross-roads then allowed them to build their own future with continued support.

Was he pushed? “If it was a matter of being forced out I offered my resignation a couple of years ago and it was refused, declined,” he said. This doesn’t seem to me as someone who has a “deep belief in this party and the people in it”. The SDLP are finished as a political party. Is there only viable option a merger with Fianna Fail and becoming an all-island party and lose their own identity? This would be an obvious desperate attempt to try and claw back some credibility with Nationalist voters on the question of a united Ireland. and in truth, would Fianna Fail want them?, other than to use them as a stepping stone into all Ireland politics, personally I can’t see any benefits in adopting that” lame-duck”.

MLA Margaret Ritchie is in the frame as one of the fore runners for the role of leader of the SDLP, which in turn suggests a lack of confidence in her ability to succeed Eddie McGrady as south Down’s next MP, yet more signs of a party in disarray?..

Mark Durkan tells us that one of the reasons he is leaving his post as party leader is because he is unable to fulfil a “dual role as Assembly Member and MP”. This view is contradicted by his party colleague, Allister McDonald, the south Belfast MP, who believes the opposite and that he indeed can carry out both roles. Again, opposing voices in an ever dividing camp.

So where does this leave Mark Durkan? Durkan is content to step back from leadership and try to get re-elected to Westminster so he can sit and take a salary for back slapping and tooth-less deals, and ultimately follow in the footsteps of other isolated SDLP members such as Gerry Fitt. I wonder how long he can get away with it before declaring himself an independent in Westminster? Or becoming a life-peer? Baron Durkan maybe?

When the date for the Westminster election is set in 2010 the SDLP may have a new leader but with the same problems. The main one being the rise of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein are the only party that continually grow electorally and will continue to dwarf the SDLP. With Sinn Feins Martina Anderson continuing her ongoing hard work with her party activists SF have left the SDLP at their heels and this gap will grow and will inevitably lead to the election of Martina Anderson as MP for Foyle. The only choice in my opinion, as her and her party’s hard work ethic, at doors in Derry on a nightly basis with updates of campaign news and views, while others you only see when they want something from you, and not when you want something from them.

Some Durkan supporters say he has a good chance of being re-elected for Foyle next year, but he is not a certainty. As we all know Foyle was a safe SDLP seat under John Hume, but since Hume left, the SDLP position has weakened. In the 2005 Westminster election the gap between the SDLP and Sinn Féin halved, and it is likely that Durkan got some strategic votes from unionists.

Mark Durkan knows the writing is on the wall for the SDLP and would be more than content to sit in Westminster and fiddle as the SDLP burns.

Personally, I look forward to the election of Martina Anderson as Foyles first republican MP and the continued rise of Sinn Fein.


  1. Féílim Ó hAdhmaillApril 7, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    I think that whatever happens the SDLP will be under much more pressure than Sinn Féin. Each of their three seats are under threat and they have no hope of making a break through in any other constituency. This must be heartening for republican activists who have had to endure demonisation from that party throughout the past 40 years. I think it is also important that republican critics of Sinn Féín remember that the only alternative to Sinn Féín in these elections is the SDLP and I don't think that's an option they should be considering. At the very least a victory for the SDLP would be a victory for attempts to criminalise the struggle. And what cause would that serve?

    Féílim Ó hAdhmaill

  2. I also look forward to the day the SDLP slither away, and think Martina is a very able politician.

    As a voter the rise of Sinn Fein is welcomed. But living in West Belfast, I wonder what benifits has been brought to the area by our Sinn Fein MP of over 20 years.

    I see no new jobs, while the MP has the ear of America. Recent poverty statistics show that 4 parts of West Belfast are the top 4 in the poverty ratings.

    While Gerry Fitt/Joe Henerson also gave nothing what alternative are we offering? Will Martina give the Foyle the same as Gerry Adams gives West Belfast?

  3. If the SDLP take a drop to 2 maybe 1 seat or worse and with fianna fail facing maybe 5-7 years of opposition then are we likely to see the Soldiers of Fortune movig north for the first time once they are free from govt. responsibility. Big opportunity for them to replace a moribund SDLP and pretend they care about the people north of the border as part of a redevelopment strategy and also they would not have to worry about a westminister election for a few years. who knows?

    Duine eigin - I saw the followig post which i thought was well put:

    sure things need to improve eveywhere but as the article notes 1/5th of the most deprived 40 SOAs are in Foyle. So much for Durkan and Hume then by the same token. But that would be an unfair assessment of them, as for other reps, and I am no fan of either. I am not sure there is a valid corollary being presented here.

  4. Maybe I'm outa step here but the fact of an MP or a TD bringing benefits to their own area is the politics of mé féin and the type of politics we should be trying to get away from. Look at the 26 Counties and Government Ministers being appointed on a party political geographical basis and not on ability. In return they spend most of their time servicing their own constituencies so that jobs, facilities, social services etc are never directed to the most disadvantaged and deserving areas but to wherever the minister comes from. As a policy driven party SF should be campaigning for jobs etc for all disadvantaged areas with the most disadvantaged areas being given priority. Some of the areas we represent in the 6 Counties are most disadvantaged and of course we should endevour to direct state aid, jobs etc, to them but we should also be working to try and end disadvantage across all constituencies especially those in Loyalist/non-Republican areas.

  5. Just wondering.... How will Anderson take foyle? in the last assembly election SF vote actually fell while the SDLPs went up? Are expecting to see a massive change in this 2 years on? i really dout it somehow, and thats even before we take tactical voting into consideration!

  6. I agree with Féilim, that the nationalist alternative of the SDLP is not an alternative to progress. The SDLP’s modern rhetoric is due to their electoral decline, and in the past they were the darlings of the British war machine, and now find themselves out of that comfort zone.

    I take on board the point that An Giorra made about a valid corollary, and agree. But for myself I do not view the SDLP or even parties in the south of similar class, as any kind of measuring stick for republicans. To a certain extent we should be breaking the mould. And I agree with Red Rebel that we do want to move away from the politics of cronyism. This is the difficulty we are facing; we want to bring forward radical change without creating PR hysteria, which may loose votes come election time.

    With West Belfast (including Loyalist Shankill Rd) being the most disadvantaged areas in the north. I feel disappointed with myself, that we are not delivering anything different and seem unable to even provide a few parochial jobs. That might lessen the load.

    So while I look hopefully to Martina, I am also hoping that not only do we expose the SDLP, but we create a better society.

    I do not have the answer to how this is done, and it is obvious that the SDLP will never attempt any progressive change. So the only hope is Sinn Féin, but hope is not enough, we must start to deliver results that are measurable.

  7. SDLP on way out?? So throw them a life-jacket and offer to cut a sectarian deal: we'll take Fermanagh-South Tyrone and you get South Belfast.

    What does that say to Republicans who do not consider themselves Nationalists? What does it say to Left-Republicans that the party simply decides to cut a deal with middle-class nationalists like those in the SDLP?

    The logic of this deal was that Sinn Fein would endorse their voters supporting a right-wing SDLP candidate on the basis that they were 'our' right wing candidate rather than 'theirs'? What does this say to working class Protestants who might be considering voting for SF because of their position on abolishing the 11 plus?

    Does reinforcing the sectarian divide not push away the possibility of winning a small section of Protestants to agreeing to a United Ireland?

    Am I the only one who thinks that a party leadership who are happy to cut a deal with the SDLP will also be happy to cut a deal with Fianna Fail? Or do the SDLP now constitute an integral part of the left-wing alternative unlike Fianna Fail? Maybe someone can explain this to me.

  8. Anon of 12:16.

    There is one party that has refused to become involved in this carve-up in Fermanagh south Tyrone. Its the SDLP.

    If as you say the way to build a cross community vote is to explicitly reject community politics then the SDLP could well be on the way. However this is a carve up based on political aspirations and as such is almost unavoidable.

    How such a carve up is thwarted in my opinion is not securing unionists to vote for SF but first to have unionists not vote at all. I.e they may not be yet willing to vote SF in numbers but they are not scared of having a SF mp and dont get motivated by the Orange Order candidate to vote.
    So for me the first indication of unionists leaving the community mindeset will be unionists staying at home because they dont buy into the scare tactics. I'll be looking to see whether the OO candidate builds his vote or drops the total unionist vote. If it drops thats a crack in the community first mindset and that will because Gildernew and the SF team their are building communications with the unionist community.

    "What does that say to Republicans who do not consider themselves Nationalists?" - depends on what these terms mean in the context of the irish nation/and states. How do they differ? And is that difference only one view rather than a factual representaiton of the situaiton - subjective rather than objective.

    Does the offer of a deal with the SDLP mean the prospect of a deal with FF. Well I am not sure about that. I think that its not possible to draw one from the other. The alternative in SB and FST are far right politicians. Its not Jackie Healy Rae and Mary Coughlan in either area.

    Proof is in the eating so will be interesting at election time to see ...
    Will the SDLP gain cross community votes by their actions? - I think no.
    Will the Unionist vote decline/fail to maximise thereby demonstrating the first steps in ending community voting? - who knows.