SDLP: The Case For Opposition

It is certainly possible to have a very academic debate in SDLP…should the Party play a role in the Norn Iron Executive. I could present a case either way.

But really it boils down to a single photograph. Earlier this week the “new” Executive met for the first time with Arlene Foster (DUP) as First Minister and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) as Deputy First Minister. And behind them the two senior civil servants and behind them their Ministers….six DUP, four Sinn Féin, two Alliance and one SDLP (Mark H Durkan…Minister ffor Environment). ….Fifteen politicians around the Cabinet table and only one SDLP voice.


There is no real way that SDLP can influence Executive decisions. The smugness on the DUP and Sinn Féin faces show that this is a DUP-SF coalition propped up by the undemocrat Alliance Party.

There is no way that this can be claimed to be the wishes of the Electorate. SDLP voters (94,000) sent fourteen MLAs to STormont in 2011 and Alliance Party voters (52,000) sent MLAs to Stormont in 2011. The Alliance Party takes one of its two Executive seats  (Justice) as a gift from their masters in DUP and Sinn Féin.

SDLP should have walked away from this farce five years ago. There is…we are told…no place for Opposition within The power-sharing arrangements agreed on Good Friday 1998.But UUP entitled to one seat in the Cabinet Room have already walked some months ago.

There or may not be a place for Opposition. There is always a place for Dignity.

SDLP will produce a manifesto before the elections in May but it is only a wish list if there is no real way of implementing policy. Of course it is the role of a political party to seek a mandate but Colum Eastwood must make it clear that the mandate SDLP gets will be for Government or Opposition….not this farce.

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8 Responses to SDLP: The Case For Opposition

  1. Political Tourist says:

    The SDLP will never walk away.
    Power sharing is the SDLPs baby with knobs on.
    The SDLP have been pushing it since day one.
    Slight problem is the SDLP haven’t come up with the goods numbers wise, either in votes or MLAs.
    It’s been obvious for decades there’s been a unwritten pact that the SDLP have allowed the AP a free run in certain parts of Greater Belfast at every level.
    How many council wards are there in Co. Antrim and Co. Down were the
    SDLP don’t even put a candidate up?
    The message that sends to any SDLP voters in those council areas must be, vote Alliance.
    Truthfully we know that’s because it borders on dangerous for any local to put their personal safety on the front line standing as the SDLP candidate.
    Btw, who can blame them.

    • I think thats two different points.
      I think you are right in saying that power sharing is an article of SDLP faith.
      And to walk away from power-sharing is to “betray” the work of an entire generation. I would go beyond that and say that SDLP does not have the numbers because (in part at least) that it did such a poor job in the decade after the Good Friday Agreement. Complacency.
      While Seamus Mallon claims IRA played John Hume and blames the Irish and British governments for back-stabbing, senior SDLP figures need to look at their own performance.
      I think the point about Alliance WAS true. Right up to a few years ago, it would have been dangerous to be seen as nationalist in Bangor, Newtownards, Carrickfergus etc and Alliance was given a free ride as a reasonable alternative. But the undemocratic nature of Alliance in last few years means that SDLP has allowed Alliance to become embedded in two many parts of Greater Belfast.
      Alliance have power beyond their votes.
      It is undemocratic.
      But the Alliance Party has a bridge-head and it could advance at SDLP expense in North Belfast and Upper Bann. I do not actually see this as likely but it is a danger.

  2. This is the John Hume way. It just has not worked out as intended, that should be UUP and SDLP with SF and DUP eating the crumbs. The alternative is go down the TUV line – back to the sixties, (we are nearly there anyway to be fair – it won’t be surprising etc).

  3. zig70 says:

    I think they should be in government. How else would people see that Mark is a very capable minister? The problem isn’t with the current arrangements, they would be fairly voiceless in opposition and then there is the nightmare of the UUP wanting a nationalist dog for belly tickling. The problem is they aren’t popular enough. I always think populist politics is interesting for example, new Labour v red Labour. Do you die by your principles even if it casts you to political minority or take the view that it’s better to sacrifice some of your politics, follow the popular vote and stop the right staying in power? My view on that changes on different days. If I thought it would work then I’d stick to principles and work on convincing the rest but (and this is where I like bangordubs data based approach) you have to be honest and use solid data to make decisions on. I think the SDLP have to get it right now otherwise FF will eventually wipe them out. FF have already reiterated their stall in the social democratic space in recent weeks and I thought it was a look northward when I read it. Though Alliance getting 2 seats is just dead wrong, however I can’t remember what way it should have been carved up under d’hont, would SDLP have been in with a chance anyway?

    • I dont really see this Fianna Fáil threat but clearly Alliance and SF would like to nibbble on SDLP carcass.
      The point about “government” is are we really in government. A clear manifesto pledge not to supply a shield for DUP-SF-Alliance would mean some “new votes” and expose Alliance as being a puppet.
      I dont see Opposition as being a joint enterprise with UUP or anyone else….too many difficulties….of. Nationalism/unionism and left/right.
      Under d’hondt SDLP would have got Justice.
      The thing is that your comment indicates there is a case to be made either way.
      Clearly SDLP cant say “vote for us as we want to be in Opposition” but increasingly this is a farce and one we dont get benefit.
      And youre right about Mark H ….good Minister.

  4. Concerned in Dervock says:

    Have you changed your position on this, Fitzjameshorse? Nothing wrong with that but I think you once blogged that you were agnostic on this issue.

    • Yes…I was. But I dont think this is the first time that I have pinned my colours to “opposition”. Its something i have moved towards.
      There is still a case to be made either way…but for me …its about Dignity.

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