Sinn Féin had a bad day yesterday. Martin McGuinness seemed a bit like a rabbit caught in headlights over the G8 Summit. There’s certainly something in this for the SDLP. Better minds than mine will need to sit down and work out a strategy.
Sinn Féin had a worse day today. I quite like Mitchel McLaughlin. But on the Justice Committee today he looked rattled. In fairness a victim, especially an articulate one like Ann Travers will always come out of a confrontation will nearly always win. Her obvious bravery underscored by the fact that she is undergoing treatment for cancer (I wish her well).
So two bad days for Sinn Féin.
And made worse by a (to my mind) excellent performance by Margaret Ritchie in the House of Commons. Freed from the burden of leadership, Margaret seems to be thriving, making a pretty good speech at the SDLP Conference. As one SDLP member put it to me “you are seeing the real Margaret Ritchie”.
Today’s Commons speech…..she accused the DUP of requesting that the Irish Government divert some funding to loyalists……the DUP were outraged, especially Nigel Dodds who was full of bluster.
There SEEMS to be a series of issues on which the SDLP seems to be scoring points. Of course when we watch a boxing match, we are sometimes shocked that the judges did not see a scoring punch….but there seems to be enough issues on which the SDLP can claim to have scored…..beginning I think with Girdwood……but clearly SDLP have had a decent first half of 2012 and a pretty good second half.
Confidence breeds Confidence. There is a certain swagger with SDLP politicians at the moment. Of course Sinn Fein are capable of landing punches also. And it is in the nature of these things that SDLP will expose its chin and get a timely wake-up call.
I am not sure where it started to go a bit wobbly for Sinn Féin. Arguably Martin McGuinness did not break out a genuinely “new” vote in the Presidential Election (October 2011) and a few wheels have started to come off……Parades, Welfare, Victims, Irish Language, Prisoners. Frankly Robinson seems to be dominating McGuinness at the moment.
Those resignations from Stormont……….Gildernew, Murphy, Maskey and Doherty seem slightly premature. These folks were big hitters. And as yet their co-opted replacements have hardly shone. And there is the looming Mid Ulster by-election, except of course McGuinness still hasn’t resigned.
All I can claim is that SDLP are “in the game”. No more. No less. And the increasingly vitriolic abuse directed at SDLP by Tinternet warriors seems to point up that Sinn Féin knows the SDLP have got their act together.
In fairness, I should point out that the Boxing metaphor was inspired by contributions from Eskrimador, a contributor to politics.ie.