Are we witnessing the death throes of the Social Democratic and Labour Party?
I have never subscribed to the notion that SDLP has been finished for years. That’s just Sinn Féin talking themselves up and Slugger O’Toole talking up their friends in the Alliance Party.
But SDLP seems to be committing political suicide.
The partnership with Fianna Fáil is a matter of necessity. Since losing all three seats at Westminster in 2017, the Party is financially stretched. SDLP needs Fianna Fáil money and Fianna Fáil needs SDLPs reputation.
Of course SDLP voted 70:30 in favour of this partnership and the “look at me Im a socialist wing of the Party” do not like it. They look like a Semi Detached Labour Party who might stay together using the SDLP logo to get elected at the Council Elections, just eight weeks away. Later this year, we might see tearful resignations as there may be very public crises of conscience plus the familiar refrain that “I have not left the Party. The Party has left me”.
The coup de grace seems to have been dealt by former Leader, Mark Durkan, who is the best parliamentarian SDLP ever produced. His passionate speeches on behalf of the Bloody Sunday victims will long be remembered. Now he will be standing in a Dublin constituency in the European Elections for…..Fine Gael.
It is actually a familiar path. SDLP- founder member, Austin Currie de-camped to Dublin and became a Minister in a Fine Gael government. Again, an excellent parliamentarian who was disenchanted with a Stormont that did not exist.
None of this benefits the under-privileged that SDLP works for.
We have the pathetic situation that many in SDLP and many friends of SDLP were happy to retain SDLP identity. Then there is the Fianna Fáil partnership, discontented lefties and now a former Leader attaching himself to SDLP.
No party can survive splintering like this. At its formation in 1970, SDLP was a coalition. So there is a logic that when the coalition breaks, the Party splits.
It leaves around 90-95,00 voters disenfranchised. Who do I vote for in May? well our local SDLP candidate deserves our support, not least for being there when members of my family needed him.
But longer term, it does not look like SDLP can stand by what it says on the tin.
And depressingly that means that I will likely be voting Sinn Féin. What they are…is on the tin. I do not like what is inside their tin. But there is no choice left to me.