LAST week, the Derry News got hold of an email signed by Colm Eastwood, SDLP leader, and deputy leader Nicola Mallon in which the word ‘partnership’ was used for the first time to describe talks with Fianna Fáil. At issue was that party’s effort to establish itself in the Six Counties.
The email was a clear sign that a merger, combination, coalition, fusion (can we say ‘coupling’?) was on the cards between Nordies and the Soldiers of Destiny. Here is an extract from the email: ‘It is clear that we need to be willing to embrace change. Continuing as normal is not an option.
‘That change will require us to stretch beyond our comfort zones ... We are not prepared to stand aside and allow others to shape a future in their own narrow image. We want to be leaders of that change again across the entire island … It is the ongoing crisis in our politics which has led us to explore co-operation with Fianna Fáil.’
Yep, that’s it, and for political hard neck it bates Banagher!
Because, as matters stand, the SDLP is a mosquito party, having just 12 MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is dwarfed by nationalist rivals, Sinn Féin, which has 27 Assembly members, seven Westminster MPs, 22 TDs, four MEPs and six members of Seanad Éireann.
Off his rocker?
In other words, the writing is on the wall for what the SDLP’s enemies contemptuously refer to as the ‘stoop down low party.’ Nevertheless, although Our Mickey has repeatedly dismissed the notion of Fianna Fáil amalgamating with Eastwood’s party, rumours continue to circulate that, in fact, he rather likes the idea.
Apparently, he holds the belief that eventually the scales will fall from Northerners’ eyes and they will stop voting for Sinn Féin.
So, in response to our reader on the Lisburn Road who relies on The Southern Star for elucidation of the more trickier aspects of Anglo-Irish relations, we’ve assembled a list of reasons that suggest Mickey might be off his rocker if he thinks Fianna Fáil can make an impact on political life in the Six Counties.
Number one, of course, is the belief that FF is a sort of lifeboat for the SDLP. A quick dekko at the history of wrongdoing down-south involving banks and corrupt politicians will dampen enthusiasm for any bold strokes to save a Six County party that would be better off honourably dead than revived with the aid of discredited cliques.
Point Two: Nordies will continue to vote for Sinn Féin. A dolly-mixture, engendered on the wrong side of the bed, comprising the SDLP and FF, will not tickle their fancy.
Point Three: The SDLP might well have disbanded by the time Fianna Fáil gets around to organising in the Six Counties.
Point Four: Although leader, Colm Eastwood, enthuses about a ‘realignment in Irish politics.’ would the SDLP grassroots – or what remains of it – really give carte blanche to Fianna Fáil?
And, for that matter, are the Soldiers of Destiny ready and able to enter the Six Counties’ minefield in time for the 2019 council elections, as is currently being touted? Or is it all smoke and mirrors, a distortion of reality to ensure the political survival of a few SDLP mandarins who see nothing wrong in being transformed into grotesque dyed-in-the-wool Fianna Fáilers?
Certainly, Mickey’s audacity in going North is blood-tingling, but one wonders if he has the ‘cojones’ to create a political environment that would permit a sensational political change – one that would enable De Valera’s old outfit to surmount traditional political boundaries and station itself in Stormont and (possibly) Westminster? Mickey already has stated that his ‘Republican’ party would have no problem swearing allegiance to Mrs Windsor and family.
But, what seems more likely to happen is that, as a long-term denizen of the Last Chance Saloon, Martin finally will realise that the SDLP has been on the slippery slope towards oblivion for more than a decade and that it is no more a social democratic party or a labour party than the Cork Catholic Young Men’s Society (a delightful place where this scribe misspent much of his youth playing snooker).
The SDLP is a nationalist party that once depended on the Northern Catholic nationalist community for support. It lost its three Westminster seats to Sinn Féin in the last general election but, the theory goes, should the SDLP amalgamate with Fianna Fáil an opportunity might be created for the return of those three seats to Colm Eastwood’s and Mickey’s band of very respectable brothers.
Countering that pleasant dream is the fact that a ‘Free State’ party in Westminster is unlikely to endear itself to the British Establishment. As Slugger O’Toole quaintly put it, the thought that the UK Parliament would extend hospitality to members of an Éire political party probably would make the Daily Mail go nova!
And now for a political ‘quickie’ that the reader might have missed during the Christmas orgy: the matter of special advisers and the fact that Simon Coveney, who did so much for Cork (such as the Events Centre that never was), made an energetic effort to distance himself from comments by his ‘own special adviser.’ The sin committed? The special adviser sharply criticised former FF Taoiseach, Don Berto.
Coveney’s personal guide and consultant, you see, was ‘sickened’ by media attempts to rehabilitate the political reputation of the ex-Taoiseach..
In response, Coveney explained that he didn’t control everything said by people who worked for him and, besides, he wouldn’t want to be involved in taking a cut off auld Bertie.
To which we say, ‘really?’ And does that mean FG ‘special advisers’ are permitted to mouth-off in public whatever they like, so long as it is a ‘personal view’? What, then, about ‘special advisers’ adhering to the views of bosses, such as Coveney who is the second most important politico in the land?
That aside, we should be grateful to him for inadvertently opening a debate on the purpose of these ‘special advisers’ and their relationship to ministers and the public.
So, here’s a question or two that the ‘Events Centre’ Minister might answer: what do ‘special advisers’ actually do?
More importantly, what is the legal and ethical framework within which they operate? Who are they and on what basis are they appointed? What sort of advice do they give to Coveney?
Are the recommendations of special advisers evidenced-based? Do ministers pay attention to them and if not, why have them?
Do they influence policy decisions? Do they influence Coveney? Are they experts in their chosen fields?
Or, are they nothing more than constituency reps, pals with no particular knowledge but who happen to be an integral part of the ‘jobs for the boys’ syndrome that disgraces Irish politics?
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