Odd thing. No mention of SDLP in West Belfast’s Annual Festival. It almost looks likr they (we) dont exist. Are we even mentioned in the great big glossy brochure?
As West Belfast invites the world to celebrate the diversity of West Belfast…the SDLP are strangely absent. Curiously Feile organisers are very fond of Sinn Fein. Indeed people associated with Sinn Fein seem to closely associated with Feile.
Last year, SDLP hosted a very successful event on Victims. Among those on the panel, Mrs Quinn from Crossmaglen and Catherine McCartney from Short Strand. The audience were mostly SDLP members, victims and neutrals. In the front seat sat Danny Morrison (and his hat) in his capacity of Festival Director. Danny is a former Sinn Fein MLA and the Sinn Fein Chief Press Officer. He is now a journalist and author.
There was one other “republican” apologist sitting beside Danny. While Danny had the good sense to not open his mouth, the guy beside him decided to tackle Catherine McCartney. That was a big mistake.
For those who dont know Catherine, she is the sister of Robert McCartney. And a pretty formidable lady. Her fellow panelist Mrs Quinn, lost a son a few years back. Both Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn were post-ceasefire victims…and their murders closely associated with (then) current or former members of the IRA. The perception of the victims families is that those associated with the IRA in East Belfast and South Armagh have been less than helpful in bringing those responsible to Justice.
So the SDLP-hosted event was a success. Was it actually TOO successful. Why is there none this year?
Well…I was at the launch of this years Festival. And I asked two organisers and ….got two answers.
The first reason is that the SDLP did not submit an event for inclusion in the programme. But that does not make a lot of sense…why would SDLP want to marginalise itself in West Belfast?
The second reason…party political parties are not allowed to put on events. Well that makes no sense either. What about 2013? What about the fact that the Catholic Church hosts events? or that so much of the programme reflects a Sinn Fein agenda. When the Festival kicks off with Gerry Adams TD unveiling a bust of Bobby Sands (RIP) in the Felons Club….the reasoning that SDLP cannot host an event is a bit hard to defend.
But Feile apologists will claim that the political events at the Festival ARE diverse.
Look at “West Belfast Talks Back” the annual political panel Q & A Session. A showpiece event. Last nights panel …John O’Dowd MLA (Sinn Fein), Danny Kennedy MLA (UUP) , Fr Tim Bartlett (Catholic priest) and Rev Lesley Carter (Presbyterian Minister and LetsGetAlongerist).
Look at the junior version “West Belfast Youth Talks Back” and a panel that includes Stevie Corr (Sinn Fein), Anna Lo MLA (Alliance) and Julie Ann Corr (PUP).
Diverse? Well Noel Thompson and Yvette Shapiro (respected BBC and UTV journalists) bring their professional skills to the proceedings by chairing the events. But would these panels actually pass BBC or UTV scrutiny as being truly representative of West Belfast.
Diverse? Well lets make this clear. UUP, Alliance and PUP are no threat to Sinn Fein in West Belfast. The only other Party to have sufficient support in West Belfast to elect a MLA is….SDLP. It is not simply a matter of SDLP being on the panel at such things.It is a question of their voice being heard at all….after all it is West Belfast Talks Back.
But what does SDLP say? Well I asked some SDLP people.
First of all…the hosting of an event at Feile. The line the SDLP was given is that “a political party” cannot organise an event.
And “West Belfast Talks Back” where it has been years since a SDLP person was on a platform. Well…SDLP have asked the same question. And been told that SDLP people have been aproached but not accepted an invite. On the other hand, SDLP people say that their HQ and Press Office have not been asked to put someone up.
Who do I believe? Well…more importantly who do you believe?
To me Sinn Fein diversity and outreach is a bit of a sham. They are trying to ensure that West Belfast is a one party enclave and out of the other side of their mouths spewing about an “inclusive society” in Norn Iron.
Sinn Fein …and seemingly Feile will not facilitate a voice which offers an alternative in West Belfast. UUP, Alloance and PUP are absolutely no threat to them.
So I have concentrated on SDLP. You expect that. I am a member.
But actually the same is true for dissident republicans and leftist alternatives in West Belfast.
They/We will never be allowed to get with the Programme.