As I actually voted to LEAVE (EU Referendum) I cannot claim any membership of this “hashtag”. The percentage of voters in Norn Iron who voted REMAIN is 56 per cent.
I was at a SDLP organised meeting at the Wellington Park Hotel on Monday night. Unfortunately I had to leave early and so I cannot really present a report on “Brexit…what next?”
Suffice to say that SDLP did lead the REMAIN side in Norn Iron. Sinn Féin did not bother to register an interest to be part of the campaign. They have been historically opposed to “Europe” and decidedly lukewarm during the campaign itself. Clearly they could not motivate their troops.
I do not entirely go along with the narrative that nationalists have re-engaged with the political process. Nor do I entirely go along that this result is some kinda epiphany for moderate unionists in Norn Iron.
The REMAIN vote in (say) Derry would certainly be something of which SDLP can be proud….contrast that with the low turn out in SF-dominated West Belfast.
I was in eleven polling stations in West Belfast on the day of the Assembly Election. Sinn Féin “activists” were all over the constituency. In contrast I was at seven West Belfast polling stations on Referendum Day and hardly a soul around.
So credit to SDLP for leading that campaign. And credit that the campaign was won.
No doubt the Party feels very energised. Success has been thin on the ground for SDLP in recent years. A lot of people …Alasdair McDonnell, Mark Durkan, Claire Hanna, Colum Eastwood have a spring in their step.
Obviously they would all have preferred if “UK” had voted REMAIN.
For once I called things right. Few, if any in SDLP will admit to supporting the historical truth that “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. It is no longer politically correct to utter such a phrase.
But what can I say?
I am delighted at a LEAVE vote in England…and a REMAIN vote in Norn Iron and of course Scotland.
Even if it is no longer acceptable to say “Englands difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”, it might be possible to say that “when Life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.
So while my SDLP colleagues continue the campaign, they might at least consider there is some merit in that thought.
“Events dear boy….Events ” (Harold McMillan allegedly) but the only way the current dynamic in Norn Iron can be changed is thru an “event”. Maybe the thing that is the difference between Politics and History is “Events”. Thus the great event of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 set a course. It has not worked out well for nationalism in general and SDLP in particular.
DUP and Sinn Féin are joined at the hip…benefitting from institutionalised sectarianism …a one party state …a coalition where SF is a very junior partner. And as the most recent Assembly Election has shown, nationalists have lost faith.
Nationalism needs a new event. Such as Brexit. And SDLP needs a new event. Such as Brexit.
SDLP has looked relevant in the last two weeks. More relevant than at any time in the last ten years. The Party is on the right side of History and led a coalition outside the narrow Party structure.
The SDLP mobilised its allies in the Irish political world. Calling for a joint “Irish” approach , before Sinn Féin jumped on the bandwagon. Mobilising European social democratic contacts while SF could only make shrill noises about the fate of Norn Iron being in the hands of English Tories….but didnt SF hand over “welfare” to Westminster.
Sinn Féin looks to be caught on the hop.
But SDLPs nominal allies at Westminster …the British Labour Party is imploding. It has already lost Scotland and the north of England will follow unless Labour gets its act together. The most effective Opposition Party in Westminster is the Scottish Nationalists….Alex Attwood reminds us constantly….so no coincidence that Stephen Gethins MP (SNP) was the big name at todays SDLP event at the MAC in Belfast.
SNP has the numbers (54 MPs at Westminster) and SDLP (3 MPs at Westminster) certainly need them onside. On the other hand Scotland (a region of the “UK”) needs Ireland (a member of the EU) as an ally. And SDLP is the bridge. There is a natural coalition.
The British Labour Party are extremely unreliable allies and while some “progressives” will see a need for SDLP to maintain links to fellow socialists….Labour, whether on Welfare, Foreign Policy is not nearly as “socialist” as SNP.
Mark Durkan gets it right…again.
As I have said before SDLP and SNP are natural allies. And few SDLP people (post-Sunningdale or post Good Friday Agreement) have any respect for British Labour….Whether Merlyn Rees, Roy Mason, Peter Mandelson, Peter Hain…..what exactly do SDLP owe Labour. They have stabbed SDLP in the back in two centuries.
Watching those apologists for Tony B Liar today….the retired courtiers like Falconer, Straw, Campbell, ….do you trust them? Do you trust Angela Eagle, Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips, Liz Kendall, Stephen Kinnock?
The big thing about Brexit is that it produces a re-allignment in Politics. This is an opportunity.
The only concern that I have is that SDLP have sat around wanting an “event”…. wanting something to happen …that they might not actually reacognise it when it happens.