Disappointing that four SDLP members from fourteen could not bring themselves to support the Equal Marriage Bill in the Assembly yesterday. Equally disappointing that three of eight Alliance members could not vote for this either. Although I dont really care what Alliance thinks.
My own position is clear. I am FOR Marriage Equality. I want all citizens to endure the 32 years that I have endured. Indeed I insist on it. Seriously…I like Marriage. A good marriage is a real blessing and I see no reason why the right to have one should not be extended to gay people.
I first voted at eighteen years old. It was 1970. Hard to think now that lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 was considered controversial. We live with it. And yet I am not thrilled at the likelihood that it will soon be lowered to 16 years. Yet I daresay that in forty years time votes at 16 will be considered normal.
Back in 1970, I would have had no idea that Equal Marriage was ever going to be an issue. It would have been hard to even comprehend. Gay people? Married? To other Gay People? In 1970, it would have made no sense. In 2015, it makes perfect sense.
I understand the annoyance of my young SDLP colleagues. I would go further. I am actually glad they are annoyed. I hope they are angry. They should be. And after Election Day, they need to channel that anger.
In 1974, I tried and failed to start a SDLP Youth Group. I failed…because I ddid not have the energy for it and because senior SDLP people did not want it to happen. I was being patronised.
I think it was Mark Durkan who said….actually its ALWAYS Mark Durkan…who said it was the role of SDLP Youth to embarras the Leadership. So as the Annoyance becomes Anger…channel it. Dont get mad….get even.
There are practicalities here. As well as being SDLP Youth, you are individual members of the Party….in South Down, North Belfast, East Derry and West Tyrone.
I see this as the last hurrah of some older members. I would have voted “Yes” yesterday. But I cant tell you the point over the last forty five years when I would have suddenly changed my mind….from “WTF” in 1970 to “Yes” maybe a decade ago.
If I were a betting man, I would say that at least two of our SDLP colleagues yesterday…will have stood down and been replaced by two new people. Id guess Dan will be in Assembly ahead of 2016 and I would think that in East Derry, there is more than one capable successor.
North Belfast…well again I would say more than one capable replacement.
South Down….the most likely result in Assembly 2016 is that two of three SDLP people will make it. You will also be aware that there are some pretty good young people there.
And you will all know that some of the really good potential candidates are women…and that in career terms, Timing is more crucial.
Yesterday was not all bad. You have seen a glimpse of the SDLP Past….allow yourselves a glimpse of the SDLP Future.