Alban …My Part In His Success

I think it has been assumed for some time that Alban Maginness would stand down from Politics in 2016.

He joins Joe Byrne, Dominic Bradley, Pat Ramsey, and John Dallat as SDLP “veterans” who are making way for younger colleagues at the Assembly election in May.

It is likely that one of two former “Lord” Mayors will succeed him…Nichola Mallon or Pat Convery but in generational and gender terms, the odds favour Nichola.

I first met Alban in early 1974. I had written an article in the first issue of “Social Democrat” and Alban was one of about ten people who attended a follow up meeting in a small terraced house, which SDLP Falls Branch used as an office and meeting place. It was about one hundred metres from Andersonstown RUC  Station.

He has/had a slightly patrician air, befitting a barrister but one of the most good natured and decent people I know.

During his term as “Lord” Mayor, he stopped to speak to me on the train to Dublin.  Mrs FJH was very impressed by this.

He was of course the first “nationalist” Mayor of the city and in 2015, many people may not see this as the history-making achievement that it was then.

Like many, I can testify to his decency. As I have said before, I voted Sinn Féin, initially for personal reasons from 1993 to 2009….and I have been voting SDLP since 2009, initially for personal reasons as it felt right to vote for Alban in the European elections. I value Decency.

And it is no coincidence that many SDLP veterans standing down are touched by Decency.

Joe Byrne would always mention my blog “still blogging away?” And Dominic Bradley would always say “still agitating?”

Pat Ramsey was the ultimate grassroots politician. Isnt it beyond a coincidence that Pat could reach parts of the electorate because of his advocacy for Disability Rights and that Dominic could reach parts of the electorate because of his advocacy for children with Autism.

Alban of course was SDLP Spokesperson for Justice.

All these men will be missed and as SDLP rushes to promote new names and faces like Connor Duncan, Margaret Anne McKillio, Roisin Lynch, Richie McPhillips, Justin McNulty and others….there will be a void.

When the new SDLP Assembly team meets after the Assembly Election, it is possibly going to be larger than it is now…but in terms of seniority it will have a different look….the three former Party Leaders are all semi-detached at Westminster…and without counting chickens, that puts Colum Eastwood,, Fearghal McKinney, Mark H Durkan, Patsy McGlone and Dolores Kelly firmly at the centre of things. And it suddenly promotes Claire Hanna to being a senior figure.

With respect to Sean Rogers (standing in a constituency where SDLP will take at least two seats from three candidates) and Karen McKevitt (moved to the Armagh-Newry seat as part of a challenge with Justin) they are not central Leadership figures…they are in the tradition of decent constituency representatives.

I have excluded Alex Attwood because I have not formally heard that he is standing again. I would not be surprised if another Attwood (Tim) is on the West Belfast ballot paper.


Yet, Alban …apart from being the SDLP member who was against Equal Marriage, made no real impact on the. Local Blogosphere. Neither did Pat, Dominic or Joe. The thing is …Blogging is an activity which mostly exists in Belfast metroplitan area. As David McCann (Deputy Editor at Slugger O’Toole) asked two months ago “is there anything to see in Armagh?”

But Politics is generational and SDLP has possibly bridged the gap between the successful Hume years and the unsuccessful Mallon years….to at least a place where there is little connexion to the past. The three subsequent Leaders played a part.

So this will mean the new Assembly team and those whizz kids with degrees in Politics (testimony to their brilliance) in the back rooms of Stormont are now all younger than me.

Perhaps the cult of Youth has gone too far in SDLP. The Party cannot get carried away with the whole “Youth is Brilliant” thing. It can alienate voters.

Politics should never be a career like any other. It is only a job that is in the gift of voters and for periods of five years. The mandate of a 70 year old is as valid as the mandate of a 30 year old.

It cant be a job that is taken aged 18 and given up at age 60.

After all a lot of older people vote.  Yes “Mól an Óige….” And all that. But it would be folly to ignore the wisdom of old people….especially me!.

Meanwhile SDLP has not selected a candidate for East Belfast. They have my number.

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11 Responses to Alban …My Part In His Success

  1. bangordub says:

    Mr Fitzjamshorse, SDLP candidate for East Belfast has a certain ring to it although I suspect you may have another potential candidate in mind who resides nearer the seat of our semi- devolved council

  2. Cork sf supporter says:

    Alban will be a major loss to the SDLP as he was a serious and substantial figure.

  3. Cork sf supporter says:

    Am intrigued by your comments on Alex Attwood.

  4. zig70 says:

    I didn’t know Alban Maginess, I’m sure he was decent and personable. It’s very much a trait of that era of SDLP. However, do we want our politicians straight and getting their eyes wiped by more experienced snakes? Nice is great for your friends and family but I wouldn’t want a politician as a pet. I like to think they can bite.

    • Thats a very good point.
      As i said in a separate blog, Sinn Féin have a tendency to “play” people. I am immune because I know some of them over 50 years….same streets, same schools, same experiences, same parishes….so they cant wipe my eye. I am a bigger con artist than they are.
      But I think Seamus Mallon does SDLP no favours when he says John Hume was “played” because frankly Mallon was played by two governments.
      I have said that Decency is a unique selling point for SDLP. Thats not to say that other people in other Parties are not decent…but I think SDLP values are at heart decent.
      But at times SDLP can be naive…it is not a good quality. Whether the whizz kid professionals can make a difference electorally…or whether they sacrifice Decency for Professionalism. iTs about balance.

      • You are right – Alban is a gent – but streetwise naïve. He allowed the Shinners to make a complete arse out of hmi over Girdwood, we all know that the deal was a DUP/SF arrangement but they suckered him in under the pretext of inclusivity so to lay the blame of that debacle on him. My experience of him was when he appeared at my door during the euro election – I had not the heart to lay into him, he was far too decent.

  5. Gaygael says:


    I am looking forward to your commentary re SF running 2 in North Belfast, after your incredulity on slugger.
    I know you said no comment but (EDIT…yes thats what I said. THIS is not the appropriate post to specualate about numbers. Plenty of time for that JUST before the actual election)

    I am north Belfast born and bred. I met Alban after the first marriage vote. He looked me in the eye and told me that if I married my partner it would undermine his marriage. He was also clear that if was legislation rather than a motion he would have voted against. I think you also missed his attempts to amend the justice bill to close Marie stopes. Twice. With Paul Givan.

    North Belfast was the second most lobbied constituency in the most recent marriage vote. Over 400 lobbies. Those people are very likely to vote. Maybe this was the final calculated nail in Albans coffin?

    • I have not expressed any incredulity aboout anything on Slugger O’Toole since May last year. So frankly I dont know what I said in relation to two SF candidates in North Belfast.
      Certainly SF lied thru their sectarian teeth in North Belfast (and Upper Bann and Fermanagh-South Tyrone) and certainly the prospect of JJ Magee in Stormont is not inspiring….unless of course you see something there that I dont.
      Running three candidates might mean winning two seats and Gerry Kelly and Caral Ni Chuilin are too important to lose.
      Like you …I am a firm believer in marriage. I am married 33 years and while it is much too soon to say how its going….its pretty much a case of “so far so good”.
      I sincerely hope that you do get married.
      People getting married…straight or gay enhances my marriage. It does not undermine it.
      I hope that when you do get married you introduce your partner as your “husband” (that statement will enhance all marriages including mine).
      It is a source of constant irritation to me that I go to a bank, store or get cold callers referring to my “partner”….a loose term. In my view a “wife” or “husband” (gay or straight) has entered into a commitment (legal or emotional) that is not ALWAYS clear from a word like “partner”.
      I urge you to insist on the same when you enter into a marriage (go south …young man!).
      I will of course delete the speculation about numbers.

      • gaygael says:

        Thanks very much for the sentiments. I like to use boyfriend now as it often throws people, maybe that’s me being facetious. So when I do get married, I will use husband. Quite proudly too. He’s a wonderful man.

        Maybe I over egged it, but you seemed quite struck that SF were running 2 rather than 3. I may have more than a vested interest, beyond living in North Belfast…….

        I think there may be a number of reasons for this, but I will wait until there is a blog specifically about North Belfast before I posit them. Is JJ not a relative of Caral and his company was contracted for all the repair work in SF offices?

      • I do not know of any connexion between JJ Magee and Caral. I do not see it as in nyway sinister….necessarily North Belfast is a close-knit community and there will always be family connexions.
        I think the main point about Sinn Féin running two candidates is that they have given up on the prospect (slight) of three seats. Undoubtedly there is a recognition of a big dissident presence.
        Not breaking my own rule of speculation but SF is talking about increasing its number of seats. But obviously thats impossible in North Belfast.

      • Cork sf supporter says:

        Not sure I … (EDIT what part of my post did you not understand about speculation about numbers)

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