Seamus Mallon …Again

Over forty years ago, the late Paddy Devlin told me that Seamus Mallon would one day be the Leader of SDLP. It seemed very unlikely but apart from Eddie McGrady, Mallon was the only MLA from the 1973 Assembly “intake” who really joined the original six SDLP MPs at the top table.

I do not know if a three-pound trout is a big fish or a small fish and I dont speak homespun rhetoric the way that Mallon does ….but presumably saying that John Hume was “played by Sinn Féin (Gerry Adams) like a three pound trout is not exactly flattering.

I dont really understand why Mallon needed to appear with William Cawley the LetsGetAlongerist broadcaster on Radio Ulster to say that. But it seems as much about establishing his own legacy as damaging Humes.

First of all….Sinn Féin “playing people” is what they do. At one time or another, everybody has been “played” by Gerry Adams. iT is what he does.

Way back in 1973….Fr Dennis Faul was played. He was an assistant chaplain at Long Kesh and he called for a boycott of the 1973 Council and Assembly Elections to show support for the internees. Of course SF dropped Fr Faul less than a decade later when he disagreed with them over The Hunger Strike.

in 1974, Desmond Gillespie MLA for SDLP was approached by a woman whose son was arrested. He drove her to Springfield Road RUC  Station. The woman was grateful and tearful…but not that much because less than two weeks later, she was part of a Sinn Féin picket outside Desmond’s house.

A couple of years ago, I was at an Féile event at St Oliver Plunketts Church at Lenadoon. i heard a phalanx of “ex-prisoners” stand up in the audience and say “I am a republican ex-prisoner and an athiest and the Catholic Church did nothing for me when I was in Long Kesh”.

A blatant lie.

And Dr John Brewer, from QUB was there and he was talking about the importance of listening to ex-prisoners.

So what have we? Well John Hume was played. Desmond Gillespie was played. Fr Dennis Faul was played. And all those Conflict Resolutionists will be played.

There is a pattern …Sinn Féin plays people. If a member of Sinn Féin talks to you, there is a reason.

But yet again, I put on record that I voted Sinn Féin from 1993 to 2009. Initially at least, it was for personal rather than political reasons. But I know they are a bunch of con-artists. In part I dont really mind…I am an old school con-artist myself.

But I dont suppose that it is much different in Markethill. After all, other people have played Seamus Mallon. In just about every speech he has made in recent years, he has referenced that the British and Irish governments sold out the SDLP and UUP.

So I dont really get the difference. If John Hume was played by Sinn Féin, then surely Seamus Mallon was played by….Blair, Ahearn, Mandelson, Mowlam, Hain, Murphy and Reid….to name just a few.

As I have said in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, I perceived that SDLP Leadership was hopeless. Whatever the individual talents of Mallon, Brid Rodgers, Sean Farren and Carmel Hanna and Mark Durkan….not to mention their Special Advisors, I remain totally unimpressed by the collective leadership. Mark Durkan took over a disaster from Mallon.

All of which makes the “grandees” a curious bunch to be pushing Conall McDevitt (an advisor to Brid) and latterly “Anybody But Alasdair”.

Of course those Derry wans who welcomed Mallon’s intervention to back Colum Eastwood might not welcome this intervention which paints John Hume in a poor light.

There is a lazy attitude within SDLP that Seamus Mallon is some kinda visionary. He is not.

Memorably he said that the Good Friday Agreement was “Sunningdale for Slow Learners”. That backfired …..the next Agreement twenty years ahead of us will be the “Good Friday Agreement for Slow Learners”.

I am reasonably optimistic about SDLP prospects but there needs to be an appreciation that SDLP politicians, including Mallon got it hopelessly wrong. hE cant blame the British and Irish GOvernments forever.

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14 Responses to Seamus Mallon …Again

  1. Cork sf supporter says:

    Gerry Adams often remarks that the SDLP got policing wrong and SF got it right.

    In those days the SDLP were complacent.

  2. boondock says:

    I cant for the life of me understand what Mallon was hoping to achieve with these comments. It just looks like more petty infighting and likely to turn even more SDLP voters off. The SDLP decline really kicked in when Hume stopped contesting elections so Mallon should be looking a bit closer to home if he is going to criticize anyone.

    • I dont think Seamus Mallon is doing himself or SDLP any good with this, especially as John Hume is not in a position to reply.
      While I understand that Humes leadership was a series of solo runs that frustrated senior people, it has to be said that Mallons leadership was a disaster.
      What was the problem after 1998? Was it just bad leadership or was it a degree of complacency? i think it was both.
      And certainly Mallon is right …the Party was betrayed by British and Irish Govts but that happened on his watch and he must take part of the blame for that.
      In many ways SDLP has written off its own History in the 1970s.
      Curious that launching his leadership bid in West Belfast, Colum Eastwood spoke about standing on the shoulders of giants but did not mention Gerry Fitt or Paddy Devlin.
      I asked one of his campaign team about this and was told that he couldnt reference everyone….very true of course but an indication that SDLP believes SDLP really started under John Hume.
      The degree to which SDLP has forgotten its own History deeply offends me. It is a disgrace. And will be the subject of a blog in a few days time.
      But its deeply disturbing that SDLP can rightly claim to have made History but is so ignorant of its own History.
      So was Seamus Mallon settling a score with John Hume?
      It is highly unlikely that William Cawley, the Presenter of the Radio Show …or his producers….would have wanted to interview Mallon, unless there was a certainty Seamus Mallon would be interesting and even controversial.
      The after-show hype seems to.confirm that Cawley thought Mallon had “delivered”.
      And certainly there seemed an element of score-settling when Mallon endorsed Colum Eastwood.
      There is onviously a degree of respect for Seamus. He can come across as a Sage, saying wise things from Markethill. But there is certainly an element of manipulation.
      His Leadership compares unfavourably with Hume. The results prove it. But it was a collective failure rather than an individual one.
      The SDLP Leadership and their advisors thought it was “Mission Accomplished”.

      Colum Eastwood won that Leadership because he built a coalition of his own Derry-based supporters, mainstream Party activists who thought that the Leader should be based at Stormont and a.nasty element of Anyone But Alasdair.
      Actually the mainstream Party showed a lot of wisdom by kicking out Dolores Kelly as Deputy and electing Fearghal McKinney. Thats a clear rebuke to the “ABBAs”.
      I do not think Colum Eastwood has anything to fear from mainstream Party members. They/We (including McDonnell people) want him to succeed. But he …or his people….need to distance themselves from elderly malcontents (not just Seamus) and tell them that they were not the roaring success that they think they were.
      I suspect that some people who endorsed Colum are already working on the next stage of the Plan.
      The old maxim is true.
      He has more to fear from his friends than his enemies.

  3. Adam SF voter says:

    Mallon and Trimble. I feel as though they both think they could have done more for each other, in retrospect. Mallon talks now quite strongly about the weakness of the British and Irish position in terms of insisting on decommissioning, but back then he seemed to be critical of Trimble for talking this very position. Maybe I am mis-remembering.

    • Whatever the reasons.DUP and SF were the long term victors after 1998.
      Mallon chooses to blame the two governments or everyone who isnt Seamus Mallon.
      Did SF play John Hume? Of course….thats how they operate.
      Did the Govts play Seamus Mallon? Yes….its what they do.

  4. kevinbarryhughes says:

    Merry Christmas John, hope you and yours are well.

    Seamus reminds me of another man from that neck of the woods talking of betrayal who ruins his own cause… Willie Fraser.

    I kind of feel sorry for the man, but I never warmed to him.

    He feels Hume got played? It’s called politics, he should probably have tried harder. This narrative of the SDLP being shafted by the governments I always found to be narcissistic, as if you guys owned things.

    Let’s remember what happened when he was in charge with Trimble and how they got voted out, the la k of generosity of spirit we had from Trimble and his pure inability or desire to sell the GFA to unionism in general.

    Hume never gave the IRA or SF respectability, their voters did and the tacit support people within nationalism did that instead. It’s the sound of a man picking handbags at dawn against a man who did more than he and who history has shown to have done right.

    As an aside, I find interesting how you say the SDLP should remember Gerry Fitt; after taking a title and seemingly happy to work with security forces engaged against his own electorate, I can see why your new leader would avoid mentioning him at all.

    • Ah I have nearly finished a Blog post which references Fitt. I never really warmed to him. He seemed to enjoy being a MP too much and probably figured he could do without SDLP …so stood as an Independent.
      And importantly was npt in SDLP when he became a “Lord”. He did suffer a lot thru intimidation…whether that was because of his “support” for Brits or whether it caused his “support” …thats a chicken and egg situation.
      Really strange thing in late 1980s, I was working in London in a square near Westminster. We used to do this for three weeks every year (good expenses). One lunchtime, I came out of the office and I saw Fitt…standing smoking outside a (seemingly) private house. Probably not his as he was standing outside (I wonder was it another MP or even Vincent Hannas…the son-in-law).
      I dont buy into the narrative that its all the Brits fault.

      • kevinbarryhughes says:

        Which narrative John? As in the sdlp’s demise isn’t solely down to how it got outmanoeuvred by SF and the two governments? We’d be in agreement.

        As for Gerry Fitt, as much intimidation he undoubtedly received, as someone who’s from west Belfast at the time (and my family are from too) I’m certain you’ll at least acknowledge that this was the norm there and yet many didn’t turn their backs on the community they’d come to represent? Sorry, but I’ve little respect for him and I’m certain the people of West Belfast certainly agree. He wasn’t a ‘decent’ man…

      • The narrative that it was all the two Govts fault after 1998…not one I agree with. Mallon has to look at performance of SDLP ministers at the time.
        Gerry Fitt…no I wasnt impressed although his real contribution might be before 1973 and the time I knew him.
        Certainly at Conferences he seemed to socialise a lot with journos….especially the UTV crowd. I remember one Conference at the Europa where he was sitting with about five or six UTV people including the sports reporters.
        To be honest, we had very little trouble with SF (it didnt really exist as a political party then….it was just mothers and fathers of internees and they needed us too much at the time). We always had more trouble with the Stickies who fought in elections.
        The only time I saw Fitt at a SDLP meeting in West Belfast was a selection convention in 1974 (there were two elections that year. So I cant be sure which one).
        Basically he was challenged by Paschal O’Hare the solicitor.
        Thats the only time I ever saw him in West Belfast.

  5. Political Tourist says:

    Certainly answers why Fitt the Brit doesn’t get mentioned much on here.

    • Im not a fan.
      But I dont like how he has been ignored. Its part of the story and I dont think theres any agenda apart from SDLP not understanding History.
      Perhaps its fair to say that it was under Hume that SDLP forged a “Party “identity rather than being a collection of individuals.

    • kevinbarryhughes says:

      PT, Fitt’s essentially the sdlp’s Tony Blair; poisonous to their electorate and part explains where the nickname ‘stoops’ came from.

      I’d be interested to hear what John would like to have acknowledged at an SDLP meeting regarding Fitt’s’ ‘contribution’?’Beware, remember the community you come from’, who knows?

      • Well I think Fitts career falls into two parts. He was much better before Labour won the 1974 Election. He thought that Labour would be different….but Labour (Rees Orme) sold out over Sunningdale.
        And when Roy Mason took over it was worse. As I said in another Blog, Mason was a wee bastard, a Yorkshire miner who thought he was like a Viceroy in India.
        Mason wore British Army ties and even designed them.
        I think Gerry Fitts problem was that these were people who he thought were natural friends even , who he had been talking to since he first got elected in 1964.
        So I think it was impossible for him to report back to the rest of SDLP “Trust Merlyn Rees” and “Trust Roy Mason”.

        If he had a finest moment, it was a Press Conference where a young man phoned a RUC or British “handler” and Fitt spoke to him.
        That was early 1970s.

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