Monday, February 26, 2007


Fianna Fáil merger - Mark's best bet?

While the question of whether or not devolution will be restored to Ireland's north remains unanswered, what we do know for a certainty is that elections are on the horizon in the North, with the date set for March 7th.

I am very interested to see what will happen next month with regard to the nationalist vote. This time round the SDLP and Sinn Féin will have to contend with stiff Independent Republican candidates vying for votes.

Leading Irish American sympathiser and former Noraid chief Martin Galvin recently claimed these candidates would impress and should not be taken lightly. I have decided to revive my Words on Wednesday feature as the election looms and have put some questions to one of Galvin's hopefuls, Gerry McGeough. You can read that interview this Wednesday on United Irelander.

From what I've read and from what I've heard, my impression is that these candidates will poll well but will most likely not upset the Sinn Féin vote. I would be more concerned about the SDLP vote in this election. Last time round SDLP voters seemed to dismiss Durkan's party as Sinn Féin comfortably secured their position as the largest nationalist party in the North.

Mark Durkan has been hyping up his chances this time round but given that this whole election seems to have been organised by the clique - the DUP, Sinn Féin and the two governments - I don't like the SDLP's chances, nor for that matter the Ulster Unionist's.

I recall last time round, following the fallout of the election, that an oft-mentioned idea reared its head - the SDLP merging with a party from south of the border. Fianna Fáil tend to be the party cited as the most likely since there appears to be an element within the "republican party" who want to be organised throughout the island.

We know the SDLP haven't the means to run south of the border and Fianna Fáil seem uneasy about jumping in the deep end so to speak as it relates to northern politics. A merger would seem to be an option worth considering then.

If the SDLP take a hammering at the hands of Sinn Féin then you have to wonder if they could ever return to being the top nationalist party in the north of Ireland. I doubt they would, which makes this election an intriguing litmus test for the party's well-being.

In recent times we have seen the SDLP reaching out to parties from the south for a helping hand. Is there more to this than meets the eye?

Where I think the SDLP are unfortunate is that it seems many of their stances were copied by the Shinners eventually. Off the top of my head we had the On-the-Runs scandal, from late 2005, involving British legislation that would have given an amnesty to terrorists as well as British State forces. The SDLP vehemently opposed these proposals. Martin McGuinness however infamously appeared on the Hearts and Minds programme accepting the proposals. Of course a backlash ensued from within the nationalist community leading Sinn Féin to alter their position and oppose the legislation. We've also seen this year Sinn Féin endorse the PSNI - as the SDLP have done.

It would seem to me then that the SDLP's failing is that they don't seem to do rhetorical republicanism quite as well as Sinn Féin. Therefore, in my opinion, they ought to seriously contemplate an alliance with Bertie Ahern's "soldiers of destiny."

After all, nobody does rhetorical republicanism better than those guys.


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