It’s Civil Rights….Stupid!

Interesting that todays headline in the News Letter (no of course I didnt buy it” has Nigel Dodds MP (DUP for North Belfast) having a rant about the SDLP losing its moral compass and pandering to the “dissident republicans”.

For a few weeks now, I have been pointing out that increasingly most issues are issues of Civil Rights. Ah the issue of Civil Rights hasnt gone away ya know. The treatment of Victims, the disappeared, welfare cuts, Irish language, prisoners, public sector pay, places in nursery schools…….these and other issues have a Civil Rights Dimension.

Take for example the photograph showing Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA, Cllr Nicola Mallon, Pat Ramsey MLA and Alban Magennis MLA presenting a petition calling for the release of republican dissidents, Gerry McGeough and Marian Price. Presumably this is what is agitating Nigel Dodds.

But clearly it is a Civil Rights issue and the SDLP is being entirely consistent with its history and record on Civil Rights to involve itself in this issue. Certainly more consistent than Nigel Dodds whose Party was hardly at the forefront of the Civil Rights struggle. Or indeed Sinn Féin whose record on civil Rights is not a proud one.

Frankly when SDLP uses the words “Civil Rights” it gets attention. And Id be happy to hear SDLP spokespersons use the words more often….in a variety of contexts. In the particular context of prisoners, Sinn Féin has been happy enough to see injustice in the prisons as a propaganda tool….Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven.

Nigel Dodds is of course wrong to suggest that SDLP is pandering for dissident votes. Because there are no dissident votes…..cos they dont vote! The clue is in the word “dissident”. But clearly the DUP are rattled. And so are Sinn Féin.

In several Blogs, I have pointed out that SDLP talks to a lot of people…..actually they listen to a lot of people who are not SDLP voices. Including SDLP Conferences. I have had to endure Duncan Morrow, Mary Hanafin, Davey Adams and God help us……Joanna Tuffy TD…..lecture me on my many shortcomings. Alas its what the SDLP does…..and theres precious few votes in it. But arguably it is the right thing to do.

On the “dissident prisoner” issue it defies logic to think this is a blatant attempt to win votes. There is however historical precedents to what SDLP is doing now and unfortunately I am old enough to remember it rather well.

In 1973 in West Belfast, I was a member of the SDLP. Strange as it may seem I got a hard time from the British Army and RUC when they found the SDLP membership card in my wallet. And I got dogs abuse from the “Republican Clubs/Workers Party” types because they were political rivals (of sorts). But I never ever got a hard time from the Provos (at least not on account of my SDLP membership). Indeed my mother was often asked if I knew Paddy Devlin’s phone number or could I get in contact with Desmond Gillespie. Cos more often than most people, the Provos had constituency issues…….often in relation to Long Kesh or Andytown RUC Station.

Indeed it was a regular occurence after a SDLP Branch meeting to walk (almost) next door to Andytown RUC Station to enquire if wee Paddy had been taken there. Or maybe drive down to Springfield Road RUC Station.

Obviously Sinn Féin likes to big themselves up about the 1970s. But they were actually pathetically weak. They were merely the parents and wives of Provos…..with no policy other than a mutual support system. But did SDLP working in the interests of detainees, prisoners or internees actually win the SDLP votes? Hardly. Then (like the dissident republicans today) Sinn Féin were calling for elections to be boycotted. It was routine then for Paddy Devlin’s house and Desmond Gillespie’s house to be picketed by the families of detainees, prisoners and internees. Shamelessly the very people that Paddy or Dessie had helped the night before.

Thats how it goes. But its NOT about them. Its about US. Its about Civil Rights. And the great thing about Civil Rights is that its about EVERYBODY.


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8 Responses to It’s Civil Rights….Stupid!

  1. bangordub says:

    Mr Fitz, now why can’t Allistair say that?

    • Maybe he will say it. 🙂
      I think for everyone….myself included……we all thought that Civil Rights had been achieved. But we now see daily attacks on civil rights in one form or another.

  2. bangordub says:

    By the way, I always read the Newsletter (online only). It’s kinda fascinating in a weird way. The letters bit is incredible, all sorts of strange people. As for the editorial content, it is a sort of throwback I think, to the 1950’s or something. It seems to operate in a bubble. I suppose that explains it’s declining readership. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone below the age of 60 reading it ! (No offence…….)

  3. bangordub says:

    Have a look at the website, It’s not badly designed and easy to navigate.
    It’s the content that’s a throwback! Speaking of which, do you think that the Irish News is inhibiting or enhancing growth by hiding all behind a paywall?

    • The Irish News has had a “good” Troubles. It visibly grew in staure thout the 1970s, 1980s etc.
      I never really think of buying any newspaper on a daily basis. There doesnt seem to be any “need” to read a newspaper. Essentially Breakfast TV news is more “up to date” and the only good reason to buy a paper is that we can take some satisfaction that our view of the world is confirmed. Travelling with a bus pass, Im inclined to be reading the Guardian but yes Ive bought the Irish News as its columnists would generally confirm my pan nationalist view of the World.
      I now avoid the Dublin papers as the peerless Miriam, the peerless Sam and the peerless every other person in the Dublin media are not my types at all.
      Paywall? Well Ive never been tempted one way or the other. If I need the Irish News for a family/friend funeral, sports report or “big” story, then I will buy it. But ive never really considered its online edition.
      Presumably they have worked out the business case. The Irish News seems to be doing better than its rivals and I think the readership is fairly content.
      Maybe its an “age thing” but I think we overestimate the Internet.

  4. bangordub says:

    “I now avoid the Dublin papers as the peerless Miriam, the peerless Sam and the peerless every other person in the Dublin media are not my types at all.”
    Hmmmm, very good, wonder if Mr Fealty will comment?
    I personally “take” the Irish Times although I dont always agree with the editorial line, I cannot abide the Independent. I just wish the Skibbereen Eagle was available as it unquestionably has (had) an enlightened world view. You are old enough to remember the Irish Press and I believe it’s demise has left a gap.
    The Irish News seems a good paper though and my local always has a copy on the bar !!!! What more could you want…

    • I never really read the daily version of the Irish Press. The Sunday version was pretty good. I suppose the Press and Independent needed each other. The Indo is too arrogant, West Brit and blueshirt for my tastes.
      I never think of who will or wont comment on any post I write.
      Indeed I note the peerless Mick has just posted an interesting but rather skewed (as I see it) blog on this very issue on Slugger O’Toole.

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