There are two heartening features about the SDLP. One is the influence, inspiration of its old warhorses…….Hume, Mallon, Rodgers, Farren, Feely, McGrady and a host of councillors thru-out Norn Iron. The second is a seemingly endless supply of bright young men and women who clearly have the same kind of social conscience that the old warhorses had in the early 1970s.
There is no weaknesses in the SDLPs “senior” team…….McDonnell, Kelly, McGlone, McDevitt, Durkan, Attwood, Magennis and the rest are pretty darn good. Likewise (and its hard to say anything nice about young people without sounding patronising) there is a lot of talent in the SDLPs “youth” team. Among others Seamas de Faoite, Christine Wilson and Niall Kelly (poll topper) are on the SDLP Executive Committee.
Yet I do perceive a weakness in the SDLPs “reserve” team…..the crucial link between the “senior” and “youth” teams. In the promised and much anticipated re-organisation that the SDLP faces in the next six to nine months, the middle-aged demographic is important.
There are a large number of people……….and I include myself………who walked away from Politics in the late 1970s and early 1980s and beyond. Two reasons perhaps. One the obvious “democratic deficit” of endless years without a political forum. The other that we devoted ourselves to “Family”. Perhaps even a third reason that we believed there were enough people in the SDLP already who would shoulder the responsibility of looking after OUR principles and self-interest.
The past decade has shown that we cannot leave it to others. Nor should we. SDLP talks about Recruitment. I understand that. And I understand that on occasions people have left the SDLP for reasons of personal animosity. This is now a luxury that SDLP voters cannot afford.
The middle-aged is therefore important. Unlike the “senior” and “youth” members, the middle-aged are without baggage, over-enthusiasm….. and (crucially) ambition. There is potentially a generation that can ease the transition from SDLP (2011) to SDLP (2021).