SDLP: Reasons To Be Cheerful

I wont be able to travel to Derry for the SDLP Conference tomorrow. It promises to be a Conference with a difference. It is in Derry, spiritual home of the Party and the constituency of new Leader, Colum Eastwood.

I have never been in St Columbs Hall. It feels significant that the Conference is not being held in a hotel…I remember my first Annual Conference in 1973 in the Europa Hotel in Belfast. And in a strange way, it felt like we were breaking down barricades…people like me from West Belfast and others from Derry, Coalisland and Newry…in this fancy hotel.

Recent conferences seem to alternate between the Ramada in South Belfast and the Armagh City Hotel. And the ambience in a fancy hotel might be different. Significantly the Conference will concluse with a “social” rather than the overly expensive “Dinner” in the fancy hotels.

It will be a different sort of Conference. Family and friends given the same status as members. A Movement as much as a Party. In other words a bigger version of the meeting at Oxford Island, Lurgan, earlier this week.

A familiar enough pattern. A walk-around The town centre before going to meet sixth form pupils at St Ronan’s School and meeting the Party and friends later in the evening.


Colum seems ideally suited to this. Previous Leaders have been Westminster -based which meant that most of a week was spent in London. Little left for nurturing the Party, minding a constituency AND recreation.

Colum is therefore able to visit a lot of constituencies and still get home to Derry.

People who blog are like spectators at a football match. No balls are required to watch a football match…or blog about a party conference. I cant say I am overly anxious what Alan Meban and David McCann of Slugger O’Toole will make of it all. On their previous record …not much. But at least it is good to see them get this far away from the Metrotextual bubble which is probably a more natural habitat for them than St Columbs Hall in Derry.

I am sorry to miss the Conference. The atmosphere around a Conference is actually much more interesting than the set-pieces.

But there will be set pieces. The Party political broadcast, the introduction of the candidates who will contest the Assembly Election in just eight weeks time. As far as I know, only East Belfast and North Down are the only constituencies without a publicly announced candidate.

The key thing seems to be that SDLP is re-calibrating. There seems to be genuine goodwill towards SDLP. The cliché that there is a “good reception on the doorstep” seems to be true. People seem pleased and even surprised at the visibility. New people like Claire Hanna and Nichola Mallon are in TV studios and people like Roisin Lynch, Richie McPhillips and Sinead Challinor are in the local papers….visibility. And Feargal McKinney and Dolores Kelly perceived as doing well in their portfolios.

I am knda happy.



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20 Responses to SDLP: Reasons To Be Cheerful

  1. Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

    Do you know if the SDLP are disciplined in not standing too many candidates per constituency?

  2. John McMahon says:

    The party conference in St Columb’s Hall!!.

    Does this choice of venue mean that the SDLP has stopped trying to pander to Letsgetalongists and has stopped apologising for having many Catholic (perish that word) members.

    • I dont know that St Columbs Hall is “church” owned. I dont know Derry well enough.
      I have seen a pic on Twitter with SDLP on banner at the entrance.
      But I think a “hall” is actually better than “hotel”.

  3. Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

    Did you see the SDLP’s election broadcast. It seemed quite okay to me, introducing the new leader and a number of new generally younger candidates.

    • It was well produced. But the time allowed for Norn Iron political broadcasts seems too short to make a real impact…good or bad.
      Every Party seems to be allowed one at the time of a Party Conference so moving from November to March (as Alliance Party have done in 2015) puts it in the Election “cycle”.
      Presumably in the weeks before Election, all major Parties will be allowed a broadcast and SDLP and Alliance will have a “second” one.
      A lot will depend on Colums speech tonight.

  4. Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

    Alan on Slugger has described the SDLP conference as lackluster.

    What did you think of Eastwood’s speech ??

    • Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

      David McCann says the conference is flat, but Alex Kane says Eastwood speech was excellent uplifting.

    • He did not describe Colums speech as lacklustre.
      Slugger O’Toole will never say anything good about any nationalist/republican party.
      Do you actually value Alan Mebans opinion?

      • Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

        A new poster on Slugger is saying that Derry is actually going to be the SDLP’s Achilles Heel and that there is despite it all still a lack of fresh faces in the party.

      • and how do you evaluate this source?

      • Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

        I thought it was a poorly-written piece to be honest.

      • I cant remember the guys name and I dont want to know it but he was slabbering on Twitter at the weekend.
        I never read the article.
        What is interesting is that Sinn Féin have to find a new angle.
        They did not do as well as they thought they would do in the southern election. But more importantly Gerry Adams is a liability. He has turned himself into a laughing stock. And when a Leader becomes a figure of ridicule, the whole Party suffers.
        Thus Gerry Adams posing as Rosa Parkes …the injustice of it all…not getting into the White House. I think Mary Lou McDonald and Martin McGuinness would happily have left him outside.
        As it is, Gerry doesnt see the funny side.

  5. Sinn Féin Supporter in Tyrone says:

    The BBC used both McCann and Meban on their Sunday Politics slot today.

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