Irish Nationalism & Party Representation – Nation Building? The SDLP, Part 1

Following on from last week’s opening piece from Cleenish this week we will be looking at the SDLP, not for the first time either of course. This will be broken up into two parts folks with the second one scheduled for Thursday evening Australian time.

The SDLP was the respectable, moderate party of civil rights and non-violence. The party had articulate people espousing a moderate vision, of and for the future. Through Hume it transcended the narrow and short-term thinking of the time. They had a vision for a new dispensation that reflected the complex relationships of these islands and laid the foundations for the potential eventual reconciliation of the Irish people.

mc donnell sdlpThrough the barren years of destruction, pain and hopelessness the vision of a new dispensation became a mantra, annoying to many, but providing hope and pride to the nationalist people. A bright contrast to the dogged, no men mentality and sterile politics of unionism.

It was the SDLP that created the concept of ‘parity of esteem’, provided the architects for the GFA and helped the nationalist people of the north to feel proud and self-confident. It was the SDLP, through the selfless actions of Hume who helped Sinn Féin open the exit door and smoothed their path down a peaceful road.

All of the above is a history to be proud of is a matter of record and of history.

The hard reality for the party is that time has been and gone. The present owes the SDLP no favours, no gratitude and no future unless it is earned. It must compete for votes based on new ideas, new policies and on who best represents the nationalist people in this part of Ireland.

Any political party must exist for a purpose, not for its own sake and not just for the sake of power, but to provide leadership and to deliver for the people. It may be that the SDLP is in danger of forgetting this.

So whilst the feeling and respect lingers on, with the DNA of the party still imbued with the qualities of respect, rights and building relationships, it has yet to develop a coherent message and vision for the future. It has yet to adapt to the new and changing realities of modern Ireland.  As a nationalist party the SDLP has yet to grapple with the future and it is my contention it is currently failing our people and the opportunities provided by the GFA.

However, the future has yet to be written and is full of challenges, opportunities and risks in equal measure.  So what the future in store for the SDLP, an Irish regional a party, in shaping the nationalist journey? What part will the SDLP play in helping to shape the emergence of a new Irish nation?

I hope to give my take, jaundiced as they may be, on the options open to the party and from a nationalist perspective what direction I alex attwoodthink it should be heading in. That sounds even to my ears more than a little presumptuous & big headed, (after all who am I really to say) but I’m prompted by the feeling that it is now time for the SDLP to answer some fundamental questions and to answer Ireland’s call. It is hard to shake the belief that a crossroads is fast approaching on the party’s future.

After the landmark GFA the party has given the impression of a party adrift, shorn of its purpose, unable or unwilling to chart a new course. The party appeared spent, old, disorganised with the appearance of being a collection of individuals rather than a party working towards a set of common goals, objectives and with a clearly expressed agenda. The predominance of grey heads, tired faces and old language only added to the impression of a party in decline. Though grey hair comes very early in my family so perhaps not the best point to make 😉

Many in the party responded to the fall from nationalist pole position with ill-disguised ill grace and retreated into a wounded corner where its sole purpose seemed to be simply to attack, bitch and gurn at Sinn Féin.

In recent times it seemed the party had stabilised its vote and was in the process in re-organising and building its organisation and being more corporate in outlook. It had found a voice, with a return to protecting rights and with the message ‘back to future’; on housing (eg Girdwood), parades and on social justice struck a chord with many. The youth wing of the SDLP seemed also energised and full of bright, eager individuals. There was a belief the party had stablised its position with the possibility of a positive future in the offing. All of which raised the prospect that the party could begin to look past the GFA and to consider the next phase for nationalism; developing plans and strategies for a new inclusive Irish nation.

Isn’t it strange how things turn out and how sly traps can befall the unwary.

Enter stage left the SPAD Bill and the Jim & Ann double act. For me this ‘topic’, whatever the rights and wrongs in itself, exposed a greater truth about the continued basic weaknesses with the party. The SPAD bill and victims issues amply demonstrated the party’s inability to think ahead, to plan and to prepare simple clear messages. They failed to develop a sound message that balanced and respected all of the rights involved. The intervention of Mallon & Rodgers has been unedifying and has diminished the current party leadership – as one commentator put it ‘the party was again eating itself’.

In aligning with the TUV, in indulging in rhetoric on the criminalisation of republicans and the pecking order of victims, the party have handed their opponents a political weapon that will be used to effect in working class areas of Belfast and west of the Bann. My own sense is that the impact may not be as fatal as letsgetalongerists would hope (as the demise of the SDLP is a precursor for the growth of the middle?)

There are still many nationalist people who have difficulty with Sinn Féin and the past and who emotionally & morally find it hard to vote for Sinn Féin. The SDLP still offers a respectable nationalist alternative for these voters, and whilst that effect is likely to wane with time, recent events may have bolstered that element of the vote. Currently the SDLP provides a nationalist outlet for those that may otherwise drift towards non-voting or the Alliance / NI21 utopians.

patsy mcgloneDue to SPAD the tenor of debate and relationships between the parties has suffered. The near future will now be characterised by spiteful ‘jags’ and point scoring, and it will become all too easy for debates to be emotionally charged. A point worth considering for those inclined to indulge in internal nationalist fights on the past is… who benefits most from nationalism turning in on itself? Not the nationalist people or cause I reckon.

The party will now be fighting on the basis of the past rather than the future. How can such a focus do nationalism, or the SDLP itself, any good? At best it will be self-limiting if not self-defeating for the party. The prime focus will be to concentrate on short-term issues with a consequent lack in developing a vision, strategy and pragmatic plans for Ireland or for the nationalist people of this part of the country.

Even before the recent controversy the path ahead for the SDLP was not clear. The GFA has brought inertia to the SDLP’s thinking, being centred around and referenced to the agreement. It is a limited vision bereft of any in-depth thinking. The advertised vision of the SDLP for a New Ireland appears earnest, well-meaning, if slightly of the ‘mother and apple-pie’ variety. It certainly does not enthuse nor is there any sense of practical initiatives to promote or advance such a vision. Is this really this vision that drives the SDLP? http://www.sdlp.ie/index.php/about_sdlp/our_vision/

What has been expressed is a broad simple proposal of a continued NI albeit within a United Ireland construct rather than a UK one. In this NI would be governed with all the safeguards, rights and balances currently in place. This simplistic proposal has neither been thought through from a national perspective nor promulgated with any sense of conviction. There is no view of how this proposal would work in practice; federal of confederation, 2 parliaments or 3 and so on. Is the proposal simply a means of kicking the can down the road?

All of which I find deeply disappointing, for the party of nationalist principle and architects of political futures, to fundamentally lack a proactive vision, a compelling narrative for the future combined with ill-thought out detailed proposals is a collective failure that betrays their past. It is also perhaps why they have failed to connect with the majority of nationalist voters.  For Irish nationalism it is as if we have members of the team who are not really sure what the game plan is anymore, some of whom even seem uncertain what type of game they be playing, football or soccer.

As a regional party, within an Irish context, the SDLP will need to have a clear vision for the future, a series of guiding values and principles and a set of policy proposals that are both pragmatic and thought-through.

The party will need simple, clear messages that resonate and reflects the hopes, fears and aspirations of the people it seeks to represent.

As I see it the strategic options open to the party are;

  • remain a regional nationalist party with broad church tendencies, a party for those who cannot support SF;
  • position itself as primarily left-leaning party focussed on social justice issues, where nationalism is put onto the back back-burner for another generation to consider;
  • position itself as an exclusive NI orientated left-leaning party where the post nationalism slogan is made reality, and lastly;
  • to carve out a role as a left-leaning regional party, campaigning on social justice issues, being a champion and advocate for rights and actively developing and promoting a vision for a new inclusive Irish nation, acting as a catalyst for national change

Can you guess which one I favour and which I think would resonate with most nationalists? Obvious isn’t it 😉

You may or may not agree with these options and you may have differing views as to what is their best course of action; either as a party or for nationalism. The important point is that firstly the SDLP has to decide the primary direction it wants to go. This is a perquisite before considering and developing a vision and plan for the future of Ireland, north and south.

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33 responses to “Irish Nationalism & Party Representation – Nation Building? The SDLP, Part 1

  1. First of all, thank you for using the term “letsgetalongerists”, a phrase I invented in early 2010. The letsgetalongerists hate it. That makes me happy.
    I declare an interest. I joined the SDLP in May 1973, between the Council and Assembly elections.
    I was a member in West Belfast and very briefly Dungannon until 1981-82.
    reasons for leaving…marriage, geography and the fact that there was no politics.
    I say this to put my comments in context.
    As a consequence of no Stormont, a generation was lost to SDLP. The problem was that the there was an ageing group of politicians and no real middle aged replacements.
    They were selfless in promoting Sinn Fein but SF are not exactly grateful. Nor are the voters.
    There is an element of senior SDLP people who resent this state of affairs but more so, they seem or seemed incapable of learning the lesson.
    As a consequence of outreaching to Gerry Adams, SDLP default position is outreach….opening up their Conferences to the likes of Duncan Morrow, Rev Norman Hamilton, Davey Adams(!!!!) and rather like SF received an electoral boost thanks to SDLP…then letsgetalongerism receives a boost.
    Senior SDLP figures will justify this on the basis that it is the right thing to do. And CAN claim SDLP is a transfer-friendly party and that the Party lies in seventh place in

  2. SF already offer the last of these options, and therefore SDLP should not try to APE the SF position.

    Conal McDevitt has said on UTV that he thinks there is a good case that the SDLP should be a left leaning party that gets its votes from the nationalist electorate rather than a nationalist party that gets its support from the left of centre part of the electorate.

    • TBF Factual, SF would not say they are a regional party but an All Ireland one, though I would have to agree with some of this, ie it’s a space already taken and hard to move on to.I still think the SDLP NEED to go there, but they need to show us why they would be better than SF or any other party (FF have a Northern Cumannn now). They need to show competence and highlight why they deserve it more than SF.

  3. SDLP have tried to occupy SF’s position: SF are a party that has a strong positioning on human rights, the GFA, powersharing with unionists, unionist outreach, and an aspiration to equality, an Ireland of Equals etc.

    The SDLP should not move on to SF’s position, rather it needs to work out what it is for. It lacks workers on the ground and a clear base.

    • The problem SF will have is of course its association with the IRA. Now, in all fairness to SF and its activists whom I have spoken to, yes they are very big into Human Rights and they will campaign vociferously for them, many of the times for lost causes, however, this is no reason to simply abandon these positions by the SDLP, a party with a long standing tradition in these areas.

      As for activists, maybe they are addressing this issue?

  4. Ooops…pressed send too early. It is in seventh place in I think seven constituencies. And is competitive in Fermanagh-South Tyrone, North Antrim , Strangford etc.
    There IS Hope.
    Any other Leader but the hapless Margaret Ritchie and the Party would have held 16 seats. Its a bit unfortunate that having the third best vote produced the fourth best number of seats. And its disgusting that Alliance usurp the “third party status”
    I DO think there is an element of swings and roundbouts…so long s SDLP stays competitive. Some mainstream nationalists gave SF the benefit of the doubt. I did too …voting SF from 1993 to 2009.
    The SDLP IS reorganising. In 2012, it had just three members in Strabane. At the end of the year, it had 70. And in accepting an award at the 2012 Conference, Danny Wray McCrossan, who will be a MLA said that the message they got on doorsteps was that the people had not deserted SDLP….SDLP had deserted the people.
    I agree with that.
    SDLP has lost people like Brian Feeney and Gerry Murray. And its no coincidence that these two guys have written histories of the SDLP. The SDLP has little respect for its own History.

  5. Part 3….sorry about this FC…the ipad is a bot sensitive.
    The SDLP recovery is patchy. West Tryrone, are among places whhich have got the message. But other places…Id worry.
    The Leadership Contest was something that worried many. But actually worked out well. I backed Patsy. But the sense at Conference 2011 was that each of the four runners brought something to the Party. A pity that there was no way of harnessing the best of all four.
    Clearly Conall has now emerged as the Leader in Waiting. Thats a worry. He has not shaken off his letsgetalongerist tendencies. Indeed he embraces them. But South Belfast for all its numerical strength is not typical of SDLP. Conall appeals to the university types but wont go down well in West TYrone.
    IronIcally the two most vulnerable seats are in South Belfast and Upper Bann.
    I am not currently a member. I joined after 30 years in 2011, renewed it in 2012 but have not renewed membership in 2013, largely because I am gene pool SDLP but SDLP doesnt listen to its own members.
    Be 90% on-message and SDLP distrusts you.
    Be 25% on message and an Alliance voter, SDLP will woo you…Without any success.
    The membership increase is a good thing. So is the Youth.
    But primarily SDLP senior people do not want ACTIVE new members. They are perceived as a threat by one wing of the Party or the other.
    So the policy is to neutralise them rather than see them promote the other wing of the Party.

    • FJH,

      Never apologise, you’ve always indulged me on your site, that and as a fellow ipad owner I know they are precarious for this sort of thing (I read the blogs on them, I prefer to comment on my ‘Jenny’ (the Acer)).

      I was particularly angry over the SPAD debacle, and in many ways what with my family (from around the corner from your own btw) I would actually be gene-pool SF voter though like yourself my vote is up for grabs to the party I think will progress nationalism the most.

      There was a comment on your blog from Irish Aussie that really said it all for me regarding the trouble the SDLP is facing in its quasi mid life crisis moment:

      ‘The SDLP’s roots are in West not South Belfast or at least used to be, plus there is a shit load more votes there.
      The SDLP needs to ask its self what does it stand for now and who is it going to represent going forward
      The SDLP needs to figure out quickly if its going to be the NI shirt wearing, MBE accepting, lapdogs of the unionists representing the Sth Belfast set or is it going to return to its roots as the moderate, reasonable and sensible voice of Nationalist aspirations in the North.
      When it answers that question the candidate will pick him/herself.’

      This for me was the kicker, the SDLP has in effect given up on some areas whether it is West Belfast or in some ways, Upper Bann. As we discuss on BD’s excellent work on the council breakdowns and Craigavon, the SDLP machine in that area is awful and they decidedly shot themselves in the foot.

      There is a lot of voters out there who would love to vote for someone as aspirational as the SDLP could and should be but they need to figure out what they are for and where there votes will come from. There are far more votes for it in West Belfast than South but hey, maybe it doesn’t fit with its new narrative?

  6. As long as the SDLP take an oath to the Queen of England and their seats in a foreign parliament I would never encourage anyone to give them a first preference vote.

    The party has been in decline to the benefit of Sinn Fein and I’m not sure this trend has plateaued yet. In my opinion the SDLP need to merge with Labour and form a new all Ireland party. If FF were to come North (action not words) every spectrum of Nationalism would have a voice.

    My impression of Conal McDevitt has grown. This guy needs to be party leader. Patsy McGlone is also impressive.

    • That’s a good point Enda re the Oath, I find it incredibly distasteful to say the least, however, (and I am not condoning it) in the instance of the SDLP let’s be honest and say (importing a criminal legal term) there clearly is no mens rea on the part of their MPs when they swear it, they clearly don’t mean it.

      Whether they have plateaued or not is a good point, I tend to think they might have but its a fragile and tenuous position they are in and they now need to show that they can win back some voters or find new voters otherwise this could be a blip on the road of their decline. I genuinely hope not.

      Joining up with Southern Labour? That would be a kiss of death, they’d be joining forces with the Stickies as most of the original Southern Labour guys have been stabbed in the back, pushed out of the party or marginalised since all of these mergers with Democratic Left and the Workers Party occurred. Why would you join with those losers, I can not think of a more unpalatable left wing party in the western world, really, I can’t!

      Patsy I like, Conall I don’t but who knows, maybe he can win me over at some stage?

    • Fair enough dont give them your first preference but for goodness sake give them your 2nd. This lack of transfers costs nationalism dearly hence the huge over representation of unionists at Stormont compared to vote share. FJH has already pointed out that the SDLP just missed out on several seats. I think I had this argument with football cliches before – okay you want SDLP to earn your vote fair enough but it seems incredibly daft to not vote for them because you disagree with for example the SPAD issue and as a result let in a unionist instead or in the case of North Antrim, Jim Allister himself – complete lunacy

      • OK, yes I would have to agree with you there Boondock, but only to a certain extent.

        If you are somewhere like North Antrim then give the SDLP a preference sure, however, if you are somewhere like Foyle say or South Down and the people they put up are grossly incompetent and media whores (I am not saying they are btw, I am merely making a hypothetical) then I would give them a bloody nose and not give them a preference.

  7. Well it makes sense for a left of centre northern regional party to join a centre left southern party. That said a centre right nationalist party is badly needed and FF fit the bill here although there is the argument that they are more of a populist all things to all people party.

    As for Conall. Have a look at this video
    http://telly.com/Z0L5D0

    • I would agree with you, if Southern Labour were a centre left and competent organisation but they are toxic at the moment.

      As for FF, I see them more as populist as opposed to centre right. I would much rather prefer FG to organise (not for my vote mind) than FF but I won’t hold my breath on that one.

  8. Don’t you think that the were the SDLP to do what you suggest, they would take votes from SF and lose votes to centre ground parties?

    • Centre ground parties? Who would that be Factual? I remind you, its the North, the notion of the centre ground is somewhat intangible and tbf SF have already moved there, hence why they are in power at the moment.

      Personally, I think the SDLP need to show a few things, two of which are as important as one another; competence and vision. At present they are not showing too much of either though Alex has been in his role (sorry Enda, I would have marked him up on the score card though I find him somewhat prickly in his dealings).

  9. Interesting stuff,
    my tuppenceworth is that the SDLP are too parochial. There seems to be a sort of personality cult around certain individuals rather than a coherent message. That, for me is the fatal weakness

  10. In former times the SDLP’s great strength was that it was an exclusively regional party, dominating the Nationalist vote in the north-east of the country. With SF moving to dominate the northern Nationalist vote and then breaking out of the Northern Pale it has used its All-Ireland status to drive electoral successes north and south (and there is no doubt that SF’s increased presence in Dáil Éireann has improved its standing in its north-east power-base, despite local criticism of abandoning northern constituents).

    It might be argued that what was once a strength is now the SDLP’s great weakness. Dublin no longer panders to the SDLP they way it once did (and London too). It is seen very much as yesterday’s party. For many in the Dublin ecosphere that is simply because it is irrelevant to national politics in Ireland as a whole. Unlike Sinn Fein which FG, FF and Labour actually have to face on the hustings. Perhaps if the SDLP did gamble on an All-Ireland status it might increase its pulling power north and south?

    If a centre-left All-Ireland SDLP did emerge it would certainly find a number of disaffected Labour people to make up the numbers in Dublin and elsewhere. People who would not countenance SF (often for reasons other than the obvious). Irish Labour is in disarray and the divisions are a LOT worse than is being reflected in the national media.

    One problem though. Is the majority of the SDLP centre-left or even left at all?

    Some, many, might be more at home with Fine Gael?

    • I think there is something definitely in that regarding the party’s geographical limitations though it would face massive difficulties in reaching out to Southern voters especially due to the Socialist International regulations (FJH would be a better authority on this than I of course). It no longer commands exclusive influence for Northern Nats and it really hasn’t come to terms with this change of events.

      As for where the SDLP and its supporters actually would sit in all Ireland politics, again, I suspect it is throughout all of the main four parties in the South (I’m including SF in the mix of course).

  11. Im also worried about SDLP performance in Upper Bann. They have not got it right for years. Small but significant mistakes in candidate selection and losing councillors like Kieran Corr and Michael McGoldrick. And having no representation in three of the four DEAs in Craigavon Council area. No councillor in Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown and two councillors (fair play in Loughside DEA). To be totally fair, the SDLP were unlucky but losing a seat is easier than winning one.
    The Banbridge side of Upper Bann actually performs reasonably well.
    And there are positive signs…new constituncy offices in Craigavon and Banbridge to supplement Lurgan. That has to be a positive sign…but to me…they lack personnel.
    There must be a new branch set up in Portadown because they added me on Facebook.
    But they badly need credible people here…a GAA official, a schoolteacher, a credit union official would work wonders.

    • Banbridge is gene pool SDLP for me. It is full of middle class Nat voters who commute to work in Belfast and have a comfortable life whilst sending their kids to school in one of the big four grammars in Newry. The surrounding areas of Tullylish etc are all SDLP country for me.

      In Craigavon Council though I have to wonder. It is near criminal that they have no representation in Portadown, Craigavon or Lurgan, serious questions need to be asked outside of the usual platitudes, there needs to be some solid action here. Like you said, someone from a local GAA club, a Credit Union (Lurgan Credit Union is one of the biggest establishments in Lurgan, go on a Saturday afternoon and see for yourself folks) or such like would be a big draw for the SDLP and IMHO these are the type of people they need to attract to run for them.

  12. The question of. An Oath.
    In the early 1970s there was an Oath of Allegiance that had to be taken by Norn Iron civil servants. I took it. (Actually I “declared” rather than “swore”) but it was a means of keping out Catholics.
    Certainly there were “purist” nationalists who would not countenance an oath but basically a co-erced oath is of no consequence. Labour politicians like Dennis Skinner take it. Many are “republican”. Some MPs including Mark Durkan make it clear when taking jthe oath that they are only so doing to fulfil the minimal rquirenent to represent their constituents.
    I am entirely neutral on the Oath.
    Funnily enough Id be more annoyed if SDLP MPs jumped out of their seats to answer Black Rods summons to the “Lords” for Mrs Windsors speech.
    And Id be really pissed off if any SDLP. Person went into “Lords”.

    • Wouldn’t we all re the Lords? I like how we occassionally get word that they will change the Oath so as to get SF into the Commons as ‘supposedly’ this is something that they would like to do at the end of the day. I laugh at this suggestion when it has been raised on an infamous site of Record and I laugh at it now.

  13. There’s a brutal truth that needs to factored in: the SDLP is not a nationalist party. It is sincere and energetic in its concern for civil and human rights, it is unambiguous in its support of peaceful methods, but its nationalism is a tag-on that it attaches to defend itself against SF. John Hume, right or wrong, talked of a post-nationalist era. That’s the kind of environment the SDLP would really like to work in. Unfortunately, that ain’t how political life is.

    • Do you not think that is a bit harsh Jude? I suspect that while that may be the case for a large number of the SDLP rank and file can we say that for them all? But yes, it has been noticeable that since they raised this strategy or thought in relation to post nationalism they have been on the wane, maybe even facing the same situation as the RC Church in Ireland where it will stick around but it should expect never to have the same kind of influence that it had previously.

  14. Pingback: Irish Nationalism & Party Representation – Nation Building? The SDLP, Part 2 | footballcliches·

  15. You start off talking about how the SDLP should not have tried to find a balance between ex prisioners and victims so as not to prejudice the former’s difficult employability and then you say they should be more of a Labour Party? How is it anti-Labour or anti-left wing to look after workers? Is this some haut Fabian culture where progressive left wing values are nice just so long as they don’t veer to the grubby coal face of employment and employment rights?

    The fact is no party balanced the GFA requirements to assist ex prisioners and victims, what we’ve seen is nearly all of them use one or other or both as political footballs, with the possible exception of the SDLP.

    • Hi Kevin, thanks for posting. I’m guessing from your gravatar photo you are also Future Physicist?

      By ‘you’, you do of course mean Cleenish, but as he is currently unavailable I will try and tackle all points raised, that and it’s my site, it’s the least I can do.

      I’m sorry, but where is the logic in your comment in the first paragraph as it frankly makes little sense. The problem with the SPAD Bill (and I was hoping we would not have to go there) is not primarily with employment rights IMHO but in the creation of a hierarchy of victims. It says that if you are convicted of a violent crime you cannot become a SPAD. That would be fair enough if the law was applied in equal measure to all parties in the North such as the security forces who were given a bye-ball by the powers that be. It clearly does prejudice the employment rights of prisoners and was accused of being bad legislation by the SDLP, yet they ‘abstained’ from voting and is a clear case of ‘bad things happen when good men do nothing’. How is this bad employment legislation too? Well, it ties in with a hierarchy of victims or in this case perpetrators. The GFA and it’s lovely ‘creative ambiguity’ has sad each side was just as bad as each other, this legislation says otherwise and undermines the GFA.

      ‘Is this some haut Fabian culture where progressive left wing values are nice just so long as they don’t veer to the grubby coal face of employment and employment rights?’

      Do point out how this would be so in relation to the SPAD bill, the floor is yours.

      ‘The fact is no party balanced the GFA requirements to assist ex prisoners and victims, what we’ve seen is nearly all of them use one or other or both as political footballs, with the possible exception of the SDLP.’

      Would you like to expand on this and give examples as it does seem like something of an aspersion just thrown out there as opposed to thought out.

  16. The problem with the Society mentality is often over reliant on charismatic impressions before technical objections.

    The fact with the SPAD bill, was that there was an attempt to make ammendments, I don’t think that was futile. In fact without the appeal mechanism amendment and some minor rheterospectivity considerations being passed the SPAD bill would not even be legal under European law. Almost every party does that to a bill.

    It was only on the last day of the debate that the Attorney General seemed to change his opinion on ECHR Art. 7, I think that does alter the debate drastically, I believe because it was both a employment standards and contract law issue rather than a criminal justice issue the issue is not one of being re-convicted but rather being limited. However if that provides a precedence to seriously prevent ex prisioners from all jobs, while maintaining their freedom are we not simply putting vengeance before justice?

    The key question is whether the SPAD bill delivers justice or revenge, in the perfect world of charismatic politics they are essentially the same thing and any moral grey-lines is confusion.

    In my opinion the SPAD bill doesn’t deliver justice to the families of Feilds and Breslin and the bomb disposal expert who Paul Kavanagh’s bombs killed, it doesn’t deliver justice to Ann Traver’s either, both McArdle and Kavanagh had been convicted and served their time and were released. It can’t do under international law, it can’t rheterospectively or otherwise criminalise anyone. Justice can only come though the courts.

    What it does do is impose lustration, which is an guesture of sensitivity to most of the victims, given the SPAD role is effectively an overpaid and unmerited position, might be seen as a “reward” for killing and maiming. This is to ensure the ones convicted of killing and maiming weren’t put into unaccountable roles.

    Agnew of the Green Party saw that lustration may be used as a legal precedence by employers not to employ any ex prisioners in the future, no matter how hard they work, no matter how much they change, no matter what they’ve achieved, the SDLP likewise saw that.

    Where lustration for the sake of victims justifies discrimination for the sake of victims and eventually revenge for the sake of victims like it or not is a technical arguement because charisma can often side with revenge.

    The SPAD bill couldn’t deliver real justice, only sympathy at best. There was an element of exploiting the bill for revenge on one side and the complete denial of sympathy for the bill’s cause on the other, it was clear that both sides were adding their own ‘creative ambiguity’ to the result.

    As far as I’m concerned any hierarchy of victims does carry the tone of revenge rather than justice in that. What does having a hierarchy achieve? Nobel victims who have carried their pain of loss without taking revenge do they need to know that the ones who took revenge are a lesser victim or will that just give them the same bitterness that comes with revenge? Does a father, mother, sibling or partner need to be told they are a lesser victim because their loved one was killed during some act of murder or in order to prevent an act of murder? Does killing someone really nullify the right to be a victim, and if so couldn’t that just reward the killer who made that victim?

    Dignity, Grace, Forgiveness and Endurance are the acts of nobel greif and are their own reward, Denial of Guilt, Bitterness, Hatred and Blame are the acts of entitled grief are their own punishment. Some triangle putting the virtuous above the heretics in my mind isn’t going to achieve much. Sometimes natural justice comes naturally, I believe these hierarchies are artifice, and they don’t protect, warn or punish, they simply label and rank.

  17. Let me save you some time there Kevin with any kind of reply you may offer to what I’m about to say as I shall point out the following:

    1. I’m a trained lawyer. At no stage did I question the
    legality of the SPAD bill but whether it’s good law.
    2. You haven’t answered my point about the creation of a hierarchy of victims. Specifically, how come the victims of nationalist violence are in facto covered yet the victims of state violence are de facto not covered as the forces of the state including the judiciary have decided not to investigate themselves. This is the hierarchy of victims we’re talking about. If you can come on here and tell us how theSPAD bill assists the victims of Bloody Sunday, an incident the State says they murdered innocent civilians yet how many soldiers have been convicted for this with their hours stripped and pensions returned, then please do let us know, otherwise;
    3. Stay on the topic of this post and leave the introduction to Law stuff from first year law students I’ve had to read before well away, it bores me to tears and it shows an inability to answer the point at hand.

    Now, you may think I’m being somewhat short with you but i will not have this topic taken of course by someone who has admittedly put some effort into a response. Unfortunately, if you do not wish to read AND understand what others have wrote and want to use this place as somewhere to go off and pontificate you send me an email and you write a piece.

  18. Pingback: Irish Nationalism & Party Representation – Nation Building? Sinn Fein, Part 1 | footballcliches·

  19. I haven’t diverted from the topic, but alas I’ve not yet made a reply. The SDLP backed neither a bad law or a bad petition of concern, ultimately, it’s a political non-issue right now.

    The “hierarchy of victims” tactic has been nothing but a diversionary tactic. For one thing you will know that the same ECHR which now examines rights violations on this case, determined the illegality of British shootings in Gibraltar, the same Attorney General who is challenging Poots over the right for homosexuals to adopt is the one who says that the bill is consistent with EU law.

    And what has this diversionary tactic achieved, does it do anything to prosecute the unprosecuted? If Kavanagh wishes to find out the people who killed his brother, he has 5 MPs (who do go to London and lobby) and an MEP wife in contact with British officials and or the NIO direct rulers who were responsible. Getting paid £72,000 a year for an advisory role isn’t moving any of that forward and he hasn’t tried to move it forward.

    Is it supposed to be some form of due process, because the Armed Forces never prosecuted themselves

    1. He considers himself a former POW, while the IRA never kept POWs, being a POW gives him political status, but nothing else. At least Bobby Sands was elected and had a mandate he was to represent.
    2. Special Advisors are paid more than MLAs and seem only accountable to the minister, if I had my way the whole lot would lose their jobs and a civil servant who’s EARNED it would take their places. Eight SPADs for one department is overkill.
    3. In the Armistices both the GFA and the SAA, Sinn Féin never negotiated for anti-lustration measures for unelected roles. Just that ex prisioners or POWs as they say should be allowed to hold a job. These Special Advisor roles are a job accountable to the democracy of the Assembly, not to a political status code. Let the ECHR judge the rheterospectivity of these rulings, it seems a lot more impartial.
    4. In the Armitices there is provision for victims, the mentioned Special Advisor killed one “combatant” and two innocent people of Irish origins trying to get some revenge on the British Armed Forces? Their families got justice, other innocent civilians killed by the IRA will not and there will be never be any compensation paid to them from the IRA. Their families never killed anyone in revenge.
    5. The problem with political status is that it works both ways, the British defence and security forces have political status even if prosecuted, these organisations has had several of their members killed, they’ve been disarmed or demilitarised from Ireland, and like the on the run parliamilitaries those who weren’t caught roam free. You can’t undo these tragedies only try to prevent them happening in the first place.
    6. They never complained when Bobby Sands was arrested, he endured his sentence with dignity, Sinn Féin have not behaved with dignity over this, because at the end of the day it is about money. Abolish the SPAD roles and see how care is given to the hundreds of other ex-prisioners or the thousands of other victims.

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