Talking to rank and file members of SDLP over the past 48 hours, I get the impression that the Party would prefer to be in Opposition than in Government for this Assembly term.

Some caveats…most of the people I have been talking to were always in favour of Opposition but importantly people seem disenchanted with the outworking of the Good Friday Agreement. It is not just “sour grapes” that SDLP would only have only a marginal role …one Executive seat…in any Government. There is a genuine feeling that the Good Friday Agreement as signed in 1998 has been “hollowed out” by amendments at St Andrews, Hillsborough and “Fresh Start”.

As I have said before, the right moment for SDLP to go into Opposition was in 2011, when Democracy was stood on its head to facilitate the DUP-Sinn Féin coalition. The Alliance Party was given an the Justice portfolio….thus 52,000 Alliance voters had two Executive seats while 95,000 SDLP voters and 95,000 UUP voters had only one Executive seat each. A travesty that shames the saintly Alliance Party.

With the number of Government Departments reduced, the threshold for entitlement to a seat in the Executive has been raised above the level for Alliance to claim any except the DUP-SF gift of Justice. Manners have been put upon Alliance.

The striking thing about last weeks election is just how unchanged the political landscape is. DUP (38), UUP (16) and Alliance (8) go back to Stormont with exactly the same number of MLAs. Sinn Féin (28) and SDLP (12) go back with one and two less respectively. The five -party coalition must be partly to blame…if nothing changes, there is little point voting. The institutions expect and maintain the five party coalition. It is certainly stable but just as certainly it is stagnant.
UUP actually left the coalition a few months ago and as expected they have said they will not serve in the next Executive.

SDLP are still “negotiating” with DUP annd Sinn Féin to get them to accept some progressive policies. It looks like shadow boxing.
Neither DUP or SF look likely to accept SDLP proposals, which sets the scene for one of those silly parade down the great Stormont staircase so that Colum Eastwood, flanked by his Assembly team, announces that SDLP will go into Opposition.
It would be better if we did not have sham negotiations.
The best SDLP could get out of agreeing to go into government is just one Executive seat and a paid Special Advisor.
Really the Party that does best out of SDLP going into government is Sinn Féin. It provides cover for SF to say that it is a genuine multi-party arrangement rather than a DUP-SF coalition.
There are complications. There is no space for Opposition…and the numerically superior UUP have got there first. At present the arrangement where leading unionist party (DUP) sits across the horse-shoe shaped benches from the leading nationalist party (SF) is meant to demonstrate the Grand Coalition…but any Opposition should face the Government. Unsurprisingly Mike Nesbitt wants the furniture re-arranged.
And of course there is the question of MONEY. In any civilised Democracy the Opposition should be state-funded…to pay for the research and staffing that an alternative government needs.
But…will the numerically stronger UUP constitute an Official Oppostion that is right wing and unionist get more funds than SDLP that is left wing and nationaliist.

I could do without sham negotiations which are expected to take two weeks. I strongly suspect that there is a second set of talks going on between SDLP and the Norn Iron Office to establish ground rules before SDLP decides to walk away from Government.
Certainly a DUP-SF coalition with Alliance clinging on to Justice (gifted by the DUP-SF in defiance of a mandate) underscores what the Government has been for some years. As Mark Durkan said, we live in a one-Party state with an orange wing and a green wing.
And SDLP really need to stop providing Sinn Féin…and the Alliance Party …with cover.

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92 Responses to Opposition?

  1. I have a lot of sympathy with that view. I can add that there are a few SF people, not at any leadership level but long-term activists nonetheless, who would be equally happy to see SF walk away from the Executive and go into Opposition. I’ve heard quite a bit of that over the last few days. The theory being that SF in Opposition could once again appeal to the nationalist vote, though I’m not sure that would work, or if the Executive would even stand without that majority nationalist input.

    • with DUP leading UUP by 38 to 16 and SF lead SDLP by 28-12…then there is no way Executive could stand without the bigger players.
      If SF led SDLP by (say) 21-19, then its possible.
      But I am also struck by number of SF activists who seem to think this election was a bad result.
      In part, it is the fall in the nationalist turnout but I think they are worried about SDLP going into Opposition.
      For different reasons, both nationalist parties invested everything in Good Friday Agreement and it hasnt delivered.
      Neither SF or SDLP seem to have a Plan B…”progressive nationalism” has fallen at the first fence but arguably SDLP have the “Opposition” option and Sinn Féin dont have the option.

  2. observer says:

    You can tell from SF’s reaction that they don’t want the SDLP to be outside. Which is a sign it is in the SDLP’s interests to be outside.

    • Yes but the “will they? Wont they?” Dance irritates me. Just do it.

      • Catholic voter says:

        Do you think nesbitt called it right? Some accuse him of bad faith not trying to negotiate a deal.

      • I think Nesbitt made two speeches in front of a full length mirror and decided that the Opposition speech had the best soundbites….so he went with that.
        At heart Nesbitt is a performer. He is not a politician.

      • Catholic voter says:

        By the way I think opposition does NOT require any agreement on alternative policies between SDLP and UUP like some say. The main thing these two parties should do is criticise the dup and sf for their own separate reasons. The uup and sdlp should be clear they are not putting forward a common set of alternative policies. They should cooperate in opposition without agreeing joint policies.

    • Id be surprised if SDLP is not in talks with NIO.
      If the Govt is based on cross-community, then I dont think that the UUP can claim to be the Official OPposition just because they are numerically stronger than SDLP.
      But SDLP (left leaning, nationalist) could have a joint programme with UUP (right leaning unionists).

      • Vince says:

        This is not such a stretch. At the moment SF are trying to agree a joint programme with quite a right-wing party that wants to leave the EU. There is likely to be slightly more in common with the UUP. Effectively the SDLP, and others, have provided a mudguard for the larger parties. There is nothing to lose by going into Opposition – they can hold the government to account, support measures that are reasonable and propose reasoned alternatives. They will have Opposition days to set out their own proposed legislation and every time that a Government Minister turns up on the news to make an announcement, their shadow will have to appear too in the interests of balance. It will do us all a service – if in 5 years time they do worse than they are now, well at least they will know that everything has been tried. Decline has happened within the Executive, it can hardly be worse outside.

        Even in a diminished team of 12, SDLP have people capable of doing an effective job – Eastwood himself, Mallon, Hanna, McCrossan, Attwood, McGrath, McGlone – in many ways it will be harder work than taking a single seat in the Executive but they will get more exposure than the vast majority of SF/DUP backbenchers and they really could make a difference, if not now then in the next Assembly. Let them get on with it.

      • I would ad one thing….each time a Minister makes an announcement, there will have to be TWO Opposition spokespersons appearing on TV. It cant be fair to have ONLY a UUP spokesperson. Effectively two Parties will have to get parity of esteem. It is NOT the WEstminster model.
        But where does this leave Alliance?
        If they take Justice, then they are IN government and cant claim “opposition” time. They will be squeezed.

      • To add….I am convinced that the talks between SDLP and DUP-SF are a smokescreen for more fundamental talks.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    Did the old Stormont government have more power than the present assembly?

  4. Observer says:

    The powers of old and new Stormont are more or less the same I think.

    Regarding Fitzjameshorse’s query about having TWO opposition spokespersons appearing on each subject. That is one way to do it.

    The other way to do it is to share out opposition jobs (a la d’Hondt) so that UUP might speak (say) on anything to do with Health and SDLP (say) would oppose on anything to do with Education, so that each minister has a shadow minister who is either from SDLP or UUP.

    • I dont think that sharing out departments would work. Take 11 plus or NHS as well as investment, infrastructure.
      Finding a programme for Opposition would be as difficult as finding a programme for government.
      There is also the question of Nesbitts personality and I think he is not truly a politician.
      Nesbitt would certainly see UUP as THE Opposition as it has the numbers. But we are not a normal society and NIO cant simply finance a unionist Party.
      Of course SDLP can posssibly rely on Greens and PBP to weigh in behind much SDLP policy (they might be entitled to finance also) and that would make it 16-16.
      But then TUV and Claire Sugden might claim some funding.
      Either way, I dont see the SDLP talks with DUP-SF going far….and the real talks are with NIO.

  5. zig70 says:

    If the SDLP go into opposition, then as the architects of it, the GFA has failed. They should probably walk away from Stormont all together. I worry about them going into opposition, the media will want a UUP / SDLP coalition to fit their liberal mind set in which the UUP are moderate unionists. A mirror of the SF/Dup cold war politic will serve no one and I firmly believe as you have alluded to that the media will interview one opposition member and the arrogant UUP will portray themselves as speaking for us. I would be insisting that the UUP apologise for the civil rights abuses, internment, take an undertaking not to repeat it and to support an Irish language bill, Gael scoils, Casement, designated days. Also not to block development of housing in nationalist areas, to help create a strategy for poverty, unemployment and health, funded on the basis of greatest need. Finally to undertake that the UUP or alliance speak for the opposition, that they articulate the nationalists viewpoint. If I got that then opposition may be a good thing. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. 🙂

  6. Vince says:

    I think Alliance really enjoy being in government, disproportionate to their numbers. There is a real arrogance and sense of entitlement about them, especially Ford. They give the impression that their votes are worth more than those for other parties. Giving up government would be a major wrench for them. Just over 200 more votes for Roisin Lynch in S Antrim would have knocked Ford out. What a pity

    • To be honest I expect that Ford will step dhown from Leader and the Assembly.
      Any other Alliance candidate would not have won.
      Watch for FOrd and Lunn stepping down….and an unknown who would not have won being co-opted. A mis-use of system.

      • Vince says:

        Agree with that. R Lynch would have beaten any other realistic Alliance candidate in S Antrim. She even managed to be ahead of Ford on the first count. It is a travesty of democracy – candidates should sign up for a full term – short of personal or significant family health reasons, co-option should not be allowed.

      • The co-option idea is a good one.
        If only unionist in a nationalist constituency died or only nationalist in a unionist constituency died….then co-option is the decent thing.
        But to get elected KNOWING you will stand down is a disgrace.

      • Observer says:

        Have Alliance ever actually coopted anyone though?

      • Yes…When Naomi Long won Westminster seat in 2010, Chris Lyttle was co-opted.

      • Observer says:

        Thanks! You win, I was struggling there.

        I suppose that case is legitimate and not a mis-use.

      • Oh yes, not a mis-use. Likewise Claire Hanna replacing Alasdair McDonnell in 2015.
        On the other hand, I think the sudden resignation of Conall McDevitt (Fearghal McKinney) was testing the system to the limit.
        Pat Ramsey and Joe Byrne were both in poor health so legitimate there but it could be argued that there was a tactical advantage in getting Dan McCrossan into Assembly. (It certainly gave him an advantage over anyone else looking SDLP nomination).
        Co-option is a mixed blessing….Gerard Diver lost his seat last week…Pol O’Callaghan replaced Mark Durkan (Westminster 2010) and lost his seat in 2011. Fearghal of course also lost seat last week.
        And I think Marietta Farrell was briefly a MLA for Lagan Valley (she replaced Patricia Lewsley) before losing seat.

  7. Vince says:

    Don’t know if SDLP made anything of it in that constituency – suspect too “nice” to do so. And that is no criticism of the candidate who I believe was excellent. SDLP just need to be tougher (but fair) in their campaigning and also tougher when it comes to analysing results, identifying the candidates that work. those that don’t etc. SDLP can’t afford to make mistakes – their candidates all have to be good, maybe even excellent. Some DUP/SF candidates will get elected in certain places irrespective of ability (or lack of).

    • We ARE too nice.
      We just dont have the boots on the ground.
      Being involved in politics is a big thing to do. Most people who knock on the doors would say Blogging is not really involvement. They are right. I dont have the guts to do the hard stuff.
      We could do with some real personality candidates….if we had (say) Deirdre Heenan or or Donna Traynor…or Barra Best.

      • observer says:

        There is Fearghal McKinney, he is a personality. Perhaps if he goes for Westminster South Belfast next time.

      • I was thinking Fearghal for Strangford (next Assembly).
        If he had stood in Strangford, we would have gained that seat.

      • Vince says:

        Deirdre Heenan would make an excellent candidate and is obviously sympathetic – she could be a very popular Euro candidate in 2019. SDLP should actively pursue that. Not sure where Aidan McQuade is these days but he would also be interesting as a candidate

        In terms of blogging – wouldn’t underestimate the value of it especially where there are not that many supportive SDLP platforms. Having said that, Slugger seems to have been less hostile recently and interesting that the Irish News basically seems to have come out in favour of Opposition today.

        Notice nice touch from Nichola Mallon today – out canvassing and thanking voters. Definite Deputy Leader and (Shadow) Minister for Communities material.

      • It was a lovely gesture.
        Really nice person.

  8. Vince says:

    And she knows how to campaign on the ground. Interesting to note that if N Belfast had been fought on the basis of just the 5 seats planned for the next election then Caral Ni Cuilin would have been the person to lose out.

    • Yes….and I think SF knew that before election.
      They had three candidates in 2011 and talked big for Westminster last year. That taught them a big lesson and they only put out two runners this year.

    • observer says:

      It would be great to recruit these candidates but to attract them we would have to offer good options.

      I think Deirdre Heenan would be a very good third candidate for East Derry where she has worked at a high level for the University of Ulster. The alternative would be Upper Bann where she is from but…

      I think that Donna Traynor would be good for Upper Bann to try to win that back.

      I think it would be unfair to put Fearghal into Strangford as it is going down to 5 seats next time, and it was not won when there were 6 seats. I think Fearghal might be best for South Belfast either at Westminster himself. If Alasdair stands down then Claire Hanna or Fearghal could be in the running for Westminster – one could take Westminster and the other Stormont.

      I think Barra Best would be an excellent choice to be Alex Attwood’s running mate in West Belfast. He is a people person and would bring a lot of votes to the ticket, hopefully bringing in two MLAs there next time.

      • I should point out that I have no idea about the politics of these people.

      • observer says:

        I feel quite sorry for Fearghal as he has been very sincere and a team player for the SDLP. I was looking at South Belfast and I think with better balancing he could have got in.

      • The vote management strategy was ok but people cant be compelled to follow advice. Claire got a lot of votes from boxes that were not in her catchment area.

  9. Vince says:

    I think they should have focussed some fire on the Alliance and Greens during the campaign – they were the competitors not only in SB but also in S Antrim and Strangford. Fearghal was further disadvantaged by health not being much of an issue during the campaign – despite the real crisis in recruitment and retention of doctors and nurses (soon to get worse) and the shocking state of hospital waiting lists. It’s a minor point but I thought his posters were poor and it would have been better to have had Claire and Fearghal on the same posters with one brought to the foreground in whichever area was most appropriate. How much do posters matter though?

    • Our posters could have better…Alliance and UUP were much better..with a candidate in foreground and one in background.
      I have always said that SDLP has been too soft on Alliance, looking on them as a “nice” party rather than the unprincipled bunch of slabbers that they are.
      The good news is that Alliance are in a bad place. If they dont take up Justice, then they are in Opposition but very much a third Party behind UUP and SDLP..
      If they take up Justice, then they cant be “half in and half out”…they would be attaching themselves firmly with DUP and SF and lose the higher moral status they claim for themselves.
      The further good news is that they made absolutely no impact on their target seats (East Belfast 3, East Antrim 2, North Down 2 and South Belfast 2)
      The Greens have taken votes (its a bit like Womens Coalition after 1998).
      Ford is finished. Narrowly held his seat and will soon be in House of Lords. Naomi Long will take over (possibly Farry in Justice)….but just where is their strength?
      Ford, Dickson and Lunn …will they resign before five year term is over?
      Lyttle is a decent bloke.
      Bradshaw is a committed unionist.
      And who is Armstrong?
      There is nothing west of the Bann for them. And the Party seems unbalanced …more unionist than nationalist and frankly too few Catholics in positions of influence.
      I see no talent coming thru at council level. Having sold their soul to get the Justice Department and two Executive seats, they wont get their soul back.

      • Vince says:

        Have argued on here that SDLP need to be far tougher. Perhaps Mallon & McCrossan will bring some of that – I have some hopes. Media messaging and rebuttals need to improve (although Nicola McHugh seems to be very effective).
        Re: Alliance, it is interesting to see how badly they did against SDLP in seats where they are both competitive, even at a time of further reversal for SDLP – there are only 5 such seats – N Belfast, S Belfast, L Valley, Strangford, S Antrim – and in all but one (S Belfast), there was a swing to SDLP since 2015 GE. S Antrim……….that could have been won (will I ever get over it).

      • You in South Antrim, Vince?
        I feel worse …I am in Upper Bann.

      • Observer says:

        In South Antrim from what I see SDLP vote was down (a little) compared to the last Assembly election. There seems to have been a swing from Alliance to UUP (the DUP vote didn’t change much, but Alliance went down and UUP up). I think the UUP have been adding “liberal unionist” types to their slate there in the mould of Danny Kinahan: Steve Aiken, and Paul Michael, who compete against Alliance. This pushed Alliance down close to SDLP. So SDLP then became viable for the last seat.

        I found the SDLP performance in Lagan Valley very interesting. In this constituency SDLP was up and SF down, compared to 2011, and SDLP was WAY ahead, with more than 70% of the nationalist vote.

        FitzjH’s point about a DUP/SF/Alliance coalition being bad for Alliance…I think that’s probably true.

      • I take the point of liberal unionists like Kinahan, Aiken and even Cochrane-Watson (who didnt get re-elected) but there must be a deeper problem with Alliance there.
        In part, it might be boundary changes around Glengormley but I wonder if its David Ford himself.
        He looks increasingly tetchy each time he is interviewed and maybe his role as Justice Minister, effectively keeping DUP-SF in office plays badly.
        It will be interesting to see how Alliance change under Naomi Long. She seems to like the sound of her own voice and the media seem to humour her a lot.

      • Observer says:

        I think Ford would have been vulnerable to the UUP had the UUP not balanced their vote so badly. They ran three here, and should have run two.

      • Observer says:

        Fiyzjameshorse, you seem to be assuming SDLP will go into Opposition. Is that your hunch as to what they will do?

      • I get the impression that the rank and file want it. There is also a certain logic to it. Holding and gaining seats in 2021 (5 seat constituencies) will be harder so I think that there needs to be clear water between SDLP and SF.
        The “talks” confuse me….it seems unecessarily dramatic.
        It is my hunch…Opposition.
        But also I have been advocating it for a long time.

  10. Vince says:

    No not in S Antrim but work sometimes takes me there. Also took an interest because when I looked at the numbers and candidate felt that it was actually a much more realistic gain than Strangford – would have thrown everything at it. SF voters to get a 2nd Nationalist, Alliance voters to put their faith in someone who would still be around in 2021.

  11. Vince says:

    Yes Observer, vote % was down, but strikingly she overtook Ford – a very big turnaround. Vote % actually up on 2015. SF % also down and actually could have taken a further small hit which would have got them and Roisin Lynch elected. There was a Green candidate here this time (not 2011) which was always going to take a small chunk from middle/left parties.

    • Observer says:

      Some say there was a tactical vote from the SDLP who voted Kinahan to get McCrea out in 2015. I don’t know if it’s true.

      • Not really.
        Last year Roisin was the candidate so from a SDLP perspective, we wanted to demonstrate that there was potential to win a seat.
        Kinahan certainly got Catholic/nationalist votes (not many nationalists would regret McCrea losing) but not really in the interests of SDLP to encourage its voters to vote tactically.

      • Observer says:

        Sorry my bad. I didn’t mean SDLP encouraged it, I mean that some people who normally vote SDLP voted tactically that time.

      • Yes. If they had voted SDLP in 2015, it would prolly have encouraged some more people to get out last week.
        I was talking to a former colleague on Thursday. He lives in South Antrim and voted Alliance. He said that he didnt think SDLP had a chance.

  12. Vince says:

    You have got to be joking Fitz! For goodness sake…..

    • About the guy who voted Alliance?
      I wish I was joking.
      Totally shocked me. As he said “you know all about this stuff”.
      When you think about it, he has a point. People reading this blog are politically aware.
      For all the TV News, radio phone ins, A level courses, newspapers….very few people are politically aware.

      • Vince says:

        That’s just very frustrating Fitz – I wonder if many others were similarly afflicted. Failure of advertising?

      • No…failure of committment.
        Politics is a minority interest. Welive in a society where discussion of politics is regarded as impolite.
        We link politics too much to religion.
        Consider it this way….we might work in an office of 40 people …say 20 catholics and 20 Protestants and speaking of nearly four decades of experience, i think Catholic workers might think their Protestant colleagues vote Alliance or UUP but would be shocked if in open discussion, it turned out they were TUV or DUP.
        Likewise Protestants assume that their Catholic friends vote Alliance or SDLP but would be shocked that friends support SF.
        We avoid these discussions so its a short step to claiming “I dont get involved” and deliberately becoming apathetic.
        I know one man now in his 80s who was interned in 1950s and briefly held in 1971.
        He had family ties to Stickies.
        His wife had family ties to Provos.
        They had nine children and frankly brought them up in a state of ignorance. He did not let them vote while under his roof and banned his children from any association with ANY Party.
        But surprising how that attitude is common.

  13. observer says:

    Do you think that the nationalist electorate could see an SDLP move into opposition as a walking away from a “pan-nationalist” position, breaking ranks, a lack of solidarity?

    Personally I don’t see it that way but I wonder if some in the electorate might?

    • Vince says:

      Some might but I think the greater risk of appearing lazy and weak if they fail to take on the challenge and opportunity of Opposition. In a short time, if they take the leap, most reasonable people will be glad to see it and wonder what all the fuss was about.

      • Observer says:

        If the following report is accurate I can see what the UUP meant when they said the current Programme for Government is not very concrete:


        Things like “we value the place we live in, and protect it for our children”.

        It’s verging on the ridiculous.

      • This is a weak programme , agreed by DUP and SF and deliberately witheld from voters.

      • There is a river to cross.
        Easy for me to say now that in 1998, I voted YES to the Good Friday Agreement. It is an article of SDLP faith but I have consistently said that SDLP was weak in the years after.
        To some extent the unified narrative is that SDLP was stabbed in back by British Govt and Irish Govt….it is true but only half true.
        To go into Opposition challenges the narrative of senior figures now retired from active politics.
        I think that it would be hard to walk away from that…it breaks a connexion.

        SDLP cant have it both ways.
        1 we were more involved in Good Friday Agreement than anyone else.
        2 the outworking of it has not worked and at least some of it is our fault.

    • No,I dont. I have always argued that nationalists need two parties. And the imbalance 28-12 is not a good thing.
      There needs to be clear water between the Parties.

  14. Observer says:

    Watching TV tonight I am getting the impression that Alliance are going to suffer if they are exposed as the junior partner in the DUP/SF government.

    • Observer says:

      I am also 99% sure they will go into the SF/DUP government. They will come under pressure to do so, to save the “process”, and cave in.

    • Yes….both SF and Alliance “need” SDLP in the Executive.
      Unfortunately we provide cover for Alliance and SF.
      Alliance are joined at the hip to two parties they (publicly) regard as extremists. But they owe their (previous) status to DUP and SF.
      Alliance are in a cul de sac. The likely leadership change will give them a temporary boost but they have no meansof progress. They cant break out of the cinstituencies they are in…and the Greens are inhibiting their advance in those constituencies.
      It would be worse if NI21 had not imploded.

    • observer says:

      If SDLP go into opposition do you have a view as to how well SDLP need to do before they go back into government.? Enough MLAs for 2 ministries (hopefully a one-term project)? Or hold out to overtake SF again (which would hopefully be a two-term project, if things went well)?

      • There are two factors here.
        With I think just seven Executive seats, they will break down 4:3 unionist and to get two Executive seats, SDLP would have to overtake SF.
        The second factor is the reduction in the number of MLAs after 2021. SDLP seats “look” vulnerable but actual analysis means that the number of votes making up a quota would be raised….and that might be an advantage (ie transfer friendly).
        Certainly somebody should do a model on how the 2016 Election would pan out if 17 constituencies had voted for 5 MLAs.

        But the biggest thing I see is “events, dear boy events” that unforeseen development in next five years. What will it be?
        I have no idea…thats why its “unforeseen”.
        But effectively we have had three successive elections where little has really changed. DUP-SF control things. Nationalist vote dwindles.
        Its hard to believe where there will just be more of the same.
        Two potential game-changers…..victims inquests and other enquiries turning up evidence of wrong doing ….ie British, IRA, loyalist or criminality in finance.
        But another scenario is the collapse of institutions….even the Agreement itself….or worst of all a return to violence.
        I just cant see everything ALWAYS being the same.
        We are always in one of three zones….pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict.
        And then….we do it all again.

  15. Vince says:

    If there had been 5 seaters for the 18 (not 17) constituencies on May 5th then the only seat “loss” would have been Fermanagh & ST. SF would have lost seats in W Belfast, N Belfast, W Tyrone, Newry & Armagh, Mid-Ulster and Upper Bann. The second SF seat could have been lost in Foyle – would have been tight with PBP but probably would have just hung on. The quota for a seat becomes 16.67%.

  16. For myself and those in my family. we feel that SF are too focused on the 26 county vote and have allowed to worst of unionism to return. I have no idea where the idea that Arlene Foster is in anyway moderate came from but things like MMG coming to her defense in the BBC debate when Thompson and the other politicians had her on the hook, didn’t sit well.

    As for the topic at hand, I’be simply no idea what the SDLP is at or who they are. The rounds of the hated Dail parties shows a fantastic lack of insight in to all island politics. They’ve people like Seamas De Faoite all over social media making serious enemies of the party, going unchecked. Like that embarrassing let battle commence moment, for Mike Nesbitt, its really a matter of so f**k, flounce away.

    I hear talk of the possibility that the election could be re-run. That’s a horse I’d back.

    • Seamas is a friend so I obviously cant comment on specifics.
      I would make a more general point that Youth Politics is a lot different. In fact it is not even “Youth Politics”. Depressingly it is really “Student Politics” and while important students are interested in student issues as well as mainstream.
      Personally I cant abide the endless banter of twittery studentsof ALL parties.
      But the crux is that DUP and SF are in a coalition government and as I heard Christopher Stalford MLA say “SF are content with being the junior partner in a centre right coalition”
      You would I think make the point that SDLP have gone soft on nationalism and that “progressive nationalism” seems a vague term.
      But likewise SF seems to have gone soft on republicanism.
      With the Good Friday Agreement seeming to fail, neither SDLP or SF seem to have a Plan B.

    • observer says:

      Just briefly to say I like Seamas a lot and I think he is a very good thing.

      • Well he is a one-off.

      • observer says:

        The SDLP have a strong Twitter presence including very impressive young people such as Clíona McCarney and Seamas de Faoite. Certainly do put forward their pro-SDLP views in a strong-minded way.

      • And lots of others as well.
        The first SDLP event I attended was a fundraiser for Magdalena Wolska and Seamas in 2011. They were candidates in East Belfast for Assembly and council.
        I know a lot of SDLP Youth people. Unfair to name some as I would leave out same.
        It is in the nature of Youth WIngs to make mistakes but without patronising them…they know their stuff.
        Like a “youth” or “minor” football team some will fall by the wayside and others will succeed at highest level.
        Typical SDLP…heart in right place….on our sleeves.

  17. observer says:


    DUP and SF now are saying to journalists that the SDLP had no intention in joining Executive and have been playing to the gallery and media, and aren’t up to the challenge of government.

    I think this means that the SDLP are about to announce..

  18. Vince says:

    SF really don’t seem to have much to offer these days. Their manifesto seemed to be written by the DUP and appears to have been such an embarrassment that it wasn’t released until 1 week before the election. Their leadership is getting old, their party President seems increasingly detached and their abilities as persuaders for a UI seem very limited. For the major challenges we face in the NHS, education, jobs and homelessness they appear to have no answers and indeed often little interest. An therein lies the problem – although some on here don’t like the notion of “making N. Ireland work” – for much of the population these are the issues that really matter on a day-day basis, some of the problems that many of us struggle with in our working lives. SDLP clearly have their faults but one does get some sense that they grasp some of these issues.

    • Sinn Féin are struggling but the bottom line is that they out-vote SDLP. Most SF voters wont suddenly defect to SDLP. The challenge is to engage with the apathetic or those that just dont care enough any more.
      It is a cliché but SF dont actually seem to want to DO anything. It seems enough for them to be sitting around the Executive table.
      Maybe they thought that when they sat down at the table ten years ago, that DUP would be so frustrated and bigoted that they would collapse Stormont years ago.
      But DUP are the people in the driving seat. They have tamed Sinn Féin….even humiliated them.

  19. Vince says:

    Well Fitz, they have actually gone and done it. I think we are entering more interesting times…..perhaps better keep this blog going beyond August?

    • Yes.
      I think that there is a sense of relief…pride even.
      I think the time has arrived.
      I still dont trust Alliance.
      They have a choice….in Opposition, they have no role (unless their friends in the media give them air-time)
      In Govt they get a bigger role but SDLP-UUP in Opposition exposes AP as the poodles.
      ALliance are in a bad place …they dont have a mandate for government and they dont have a mandate for Opposition.

      But Alliance are totally shameless. They can still be bought.

      • Vince says:

        Clearly the correct decision, irrespective of what happens in 2021. If SF/DUP do a good job, they will be rewarded. If not, there will be the opportunity for real change. Of course if SF/DUP do a poor job and still do well electorally we will know beyond doubt that this place is a basket case and it is finally time to give up on conventional politics.

      • Yes…sometimes we just have to do the right thing.
        This feels right.
        Whether or not, we are rewarded electorally, I think History will be kind.

  20. fintaann says:

    Really interesting

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