The Observer has learnt that five leading figures from the SDLP in Belfast have decided not to stand on the party’s ticket in future elections. Instead they are writing to Fianna Fail this week urging the Irish Prime Minister’s party to allow the SDLP to evolve into Fianna Fail in Northern Ireland. (Observer, 30 November 2003)
This would be quite a suicide move for the SDLP. I would have thought that by now the SDLP would have realised that they cannot out-Sinn Fein Sinn Fein. I understand the appeal of joining forces with an all-island party, and what better than the historical anti-partition party.
However, this would be forgetting a cardinal rule of Northern Ireland politics, especially vis-a-vis the South: Northerners are different. I know this preturbs Northern nationalists, but it’s a truth. Even Sinn Fein recognise this and, in fact, exploit it.
So, say you introduce Fianna Fail to NI politics. Does anyone seriously think Sinn Fein (North) isn’t going to be able to effectively challenge them as the true and new voice of all-island republicanism?
The SDLP do need to think about how they represent all-island Irish nationalism. Me thinks it should be on their own terms. Importing ideas from the South may not be the best approach. Goodness knows it didn’t work for the SDLP in this election.