SDLP: The Next Generation

SDLP Youth hold their annual Conference in Derry next weekend. The Youth Group are scarily good…and eight of them made it on to the full Party Executive in November last year.

Back in 1973/74 I tried to interest the SDLP in a Youth Section and despite one meeting I called in West Belfast (a young man called Alban Magennis was among seven people who showed up) and presenting my case to the Partys Organisation Committe at the Dunowen Restaurant in Dungannon…nothing happened.

It was the 1980s and I had left SDLP before the Youth Group actually got off the ground. So it does my old heart a lot of good to see that the Next Generation are so strong within the Party. Among those “boldly going” is Cliona McCarney who is running for SDLP Youth Vice Chair. Cliona is from South Belfast and just finishing her first year at Queens University. I am happy to endorse her campaign.

In November I walked into the Armagh City Hotel just as Cliona was about to make a speech to Conference. She was simply brilliant.


Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh sí!    Encourage Youth and It will Thrive!

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37 Responses to SDLP: The Next Generation

  1. Political Tourist says:

    What exactly are the SDLP’s politics?
    Seems like a Catholic SDP and by catholic i mean their politics are taking in accordance with RC church teaching so i take it their anti abortion.
    It looks like a fusion between Belfast and Derry catholic labour and old fashioned green nationalists Delvinite types, Joe rather Paddy or Bernadette.
    Any member of the SDLP i knew seemed to have very vague politics.
    As i say, catholic non unionist pro power sharing and not much more.
    Maybe you could enlighten me FJH.

    • Socialist
      Civil Rights

      In some way or other, every SDLP person I know ticks all those boxes. The emphasis differing person to person.
      Socialist…certainly left of centre.
      Nationalist…why not? After all the BRITISH Labour Party is just as nationalist.
      Republican….an assertion of the primacy of people over inherited monarchy. Shame on monarchists.
      Civil Rights…the marker that differentiates from Sinn Fein.
      Im not sure what your issue is with Abortion. It’s not some kinda touchstone for Catholics alone. Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Islamists, Jewish people aren’t exactly thrilled about it either.
      In any society where the vast majority of people are people of faith, then it’s logical that they will allow those feelings to inform their politics.
      It will for example be interesting to see if Scotland changes.

      For myself, I am not CURRENTLY a member of SDLP but essentially that’s more to do with not getting round to paying the subscription and a certain conflict of interests with other voluntary work I am involved with. (I must emphasise nobody else has suggested that there is a conflict of interests but I want to ensure nobody is uncomfortable with me).
      As to precise policies…all in their manifesto.
      I personally don’t think Im unduly influenced by POLICY….as essentially the Assembly is meaningless because of Westminster. It’s more or less a situation that Elections give me the opportunity of identifying with my own set of principles and narrow self interest.
      So I put #1 at SDLP…#2 at Sinn Fein.
      None of the other parties tick any of my four principles/self interest so I don’t give a tinkers curse for DUP, UUP, Alliance.
      They don’t care about me and mine either.
      Although I credit the DUP and UUP with being open about it.
      Alliance are a bunch of parasites.

  2. Hello FJH,

    Do you think the new generation of the SDLP share your feeling towards The Alliance Party?

    I find the strength of feeling between the SDLP and Alliance a bit hard to understand. From a distance you both look a bit liberal-left and a bit churchy. I think that anywhere else you might even be factions of the same party.

    I have seen Mr Brian Feeney describe Alliance as “odious” and here you describe them as “parasites”.

    Is there a history of policy decisions that explains this feeling or is it more personal?

    I see that Mr Cushnahan who led The Alliance Party and Mr Gerry Adams who leads Sinn Fein went to St Mary’s in the same year and that you attended a few years later. Do you know if Mr Feeney went there as well?

    • I dont know.
      I do know that before the 2011 Election I wrote a lot on Slugger O’ Toole about how dangerous Alliance was to SDLP. I also spoke at Hustings about this. SDLP (i was not a member) didnt listen…now I think they get it.
      Young people also get it. SDLP need twice as many MLAS as Alliance to get the same number of Executive seats. I sincerely hope the younger generation of SDLP share my feelings.
      Oddly a leading member of the Alliance Party “outed” me as Brian Feeney (on the Alliance house website, Slugger O’ Toole) and this was taken up by two other Alliance members on Slugger…after a year or so, i put the record straight…no need to put them right immediately.
      Brian was of course a SDLP member in 1970s so we obviously have a lot in common.
      I dont think he went to St Marys. Did Cushnahan go there? He doesnt look like a St Marys type.
      Alliance types like Gerry Lynch went to St Malachys. So did Eamonn Holmes…dont start me on Eamonn Holmes.

      • factual says:

        Brian Feeney has generally been critical of the SDLP while has chosen to focus his book writing on SF – he wrote a magnum opus on SF

      • No…he wrote a BOOK.

      • It says here he did. Mr Feeney doesn’t have a wikipedia page and googling Brian Feeney and St Mary’s just brings you to links to the university college.

        It’s odd that you should think The Alliance Party don’t care about you and yours when they elected a leader who went to your school.

      • I went to MY school…who would want me as a Party Leader?

      • factual says:

        Certainly one of Feeney’s Magnum Opi, probably his Magnum Opus among sole-authored works, he elected to do on Sinn Féin, a history of the party.

      • Sir Ike Broflovski says:

        “Alliance types went to St Malachy’s”. Someone should do a guide to Catholic schooling for non-Catholics so that the rest of us can understand your various sects. We seem to have Holy Ghost Fathers (Blackrock), Jesuits (Belvedere), Christian Brothers (St Mary’s) and whatever group runs St Malachy’s. I only know about Blackrock and Belverdere because of Brian O’Driscoll and Joyce. Then there’s Redemptorists at Clonard I think and who knows what else. Do these bodies actually exist as corporate entities and “own” these institutions or are they more like regiments in the British Army – muster points to give the greater organisation a more human scale? Is there a cultural (in an organisational sense) difference between St Malachy’s and St Mary’s?

      • i think I should point out that I said that Alliance types like Gerry Lynch” went to St Malachys.
        This is very different from the interpretation that ” Alliance types” went to St Malachys.
        The point I was making was about individuals rather than parties.
        I did indeed go to St Marys.
        I think its important to say that scholarship boys went to these schools “free” but there was an annual capital fee paid every September.
        In 1963 the St Marys fee was £3 and as I recall the St Malachys fee was £5.
        This meant that there was a difference in St Marys and St Malachys which was not enirely geographic.
        In those days St Marys (and in my day that was Barrack Street near the city centre) catchment area was the Falls Road and Andersonstown as well as the Markets, Ormeau, Short Strand and country boys from Glenavy, Moira, Lurgan, Moira, Lisburn, Bangor and Portaferry.
        While a St Mqlachys uniform was unusual on the Falls Road, St Marys certainly had boys from Ardoyne and Antim Road and they would have passed St Malachys to get to St Marys.
        So it might have been economic reasons although many of the Antrim Road boys had gone to the Christian Bros primary school at Park Lodge.
        In those days most primary schools did not wear uniforms.
        St Marys had a uniform then often confused with RBAI…but the colours were St Marys had no single supplier which meant uniform was often yellow/black orange/black or gold/black…a lot ofhome knitted stuff.
        That was 1963….but around 1967 most pupils had stopped wering any uniform. We were wearing hippy summer of love shirts.
        In 1968 MOST of the school moved to its current location at Glen Road. Uniform was re-established.
        St Malachys ALWAYS wore uniform.
        They were considered generally more posh.
        I think that Our Ladys and St Patricks ….in Knock took a lot of the North Down boys. It opened I think around 1968.
        Aquinas in South Belfast (and I have no idea where it is) has probably taken the South Belfast kids.

      • factual says:

        Sir I: I’m guessing that St M is slightly more prestigious than StM but I am not sure as I am not from that part of Ireland.

      • Sir Ike Broflovski says:

        Aquinas is hidden away in Ravenhill FJH. The Rugby ground has an “Aquinas end”.

  3. Political Tourist says:

    So i guess the SDLP is a very loose broad church.
    Although they do seem vague on most of the republican, socialist, nationalist and civil rights.
    Gerry Fitt claimed to be a labour man and ended up a British Lord.
    And the SDLP seemed all over the place at the time of the hunger-strike.
    As regards the SDLP and Alliance, haven’t they had electoral pacts over the years.
    And what about the SDLP ex MLA from Larne, wasn’t he one of the few catholic members of the UDR.
    He seemed to have a very hard time of it.

    • factual says:

      Conal Devitt stated that he saw it as a social democratic party which draws most of its support from the nationalist community, rather than a nationalist party as such.

    • Important to stress Gery Fitt s out of SDLP before he was in House of Lords.
      No member of SDLP has been in Lords.
      Hume, Mallon and Hendron have turned it down. And I understand two others were offered it.
      Republicans clearly have a problem with hereditary. nd both SDLP and SF do the minimum crap to represent their constituents. Clearly one is abstentionist.
      But clearly Dennis Skinner has no problem doing some kinda verbal fealty to Mrs Windsor.
      Clearly John Prescott no problem with the Lords.
      Skinner remains a republican.
      Prescott remains a socialist.
      As to the UDR….Danny O’Connor is the manyou are thinking of.
      One of my friends (not bornin our part of the world) a Catholic was a UDR officer. He was a republican at heart and never missed a Down GAA game. I once put it to him that he was risking his life for nothing. He took the view that he had more to fear from his UDR comrades than anyone else. He thought that he had made a mistake joining it but it would be a bigger mistake to leave it.
      I attended two funerals of UDR people…both neighbours…both Catholics in West Belfast.
      One was shot dead by the IRA in front of his family.
      The other decided he was under threat by IRA and his family moved to East Belfast. He was killed…tortured to death by loyalists and his body dumped on waste ground at the Holywood Arches.

  4. Hi FJH,

    Enjoying the sunshine?

    I found this on “Plan B” from Mr Mark Langhammer of The Labour Party. In it he accuses the SDLP of being happy with “Northern Irelandism”. I think he thinks Irish Democratic Socialists and Social Democrats should be part of the Irish Labour Party. What do you think?

    • Ah Mark Langhammer..where do I start.
      I last saw him on TV talking about students in the Holy Land.
      Ive never taken him seriously.

      • Political Tourist says:

        Maybe Hume was right about being post nationalist.
        How long can it be before people not using the term “unionist” make a majority of local councillors.
        Would be a strange Northern Ireland if unionists by party label find themselves in a minority.
        Maybe that would be the next phase possibly within the near future.
        At that point the whole UVF battle reenactment scene comes to a head.
        Do they except it is the question for me.

      • factual says:

        I think that that would indeed suggest a normalisation of things.

  5. The Ritchie took the party down a blind and damaging alley. It went to a post conflict agenda when the conflict was still raging, only the weapons had changed.

    The anti SF bile doesn’t sit well and returned fully in the form of the SPAD debate. An SDLP man (seamus something. His surname was gaelic) was befitting of the infamous Kearon tweet. I tried to impress upon him and Mc Devitt that many of their voters may not have supported the recent episode of the struggle but they did understand it and what laid behind it. Furthermore, I stressed that there were very many of the voters who personally knew ex volunteers and knew them not to be the beasts of opportunistic unionist and British creation.

    The lesson of their part in the unionist mugging of Michele Gildernew clearly hasn’t sunk in. It’s a pity because they seemed to be turning in the right direction but have clearly hit a hairpin bend.

    Unionism has made it clear that we are nowhere near a post conflict situation and real politics, save for a few exceptions, is not on the table and won’t be for quite a while. The #flegs, Mc Causlland’s decision on Girdwood, Kennedy’s on the A5, Irish language legislation and the vaguely disguised approval for recent loyalist violence shows that it is still game on. We need a new Mallon, man happy to get their hands as dirty as demands dictate.That said, Dolores Kelly makes a fair stab at it. What electing Dr Magoo as leader was all about, I’m at an effin’ loss. The party don’t have the political space to mess about like that.

  6. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    “Conal Devitt stated that he saw it as a social democratic party which draws most of its support from the nationalist community, rather than a nationalist party as such.”

    I don’t know what’s wrong with just saying that the Northern SDLP’s constitutional policy is for Irish reunification within the EU, that it fully supports equality for Irish cultural heritage and then get on with being the Labour Party. Too much fussing about whether Sinn Fein or the SDLP are the better republicans and whether the SDLP or Alliance are the better democrats. It’s all a bit defensive. The SDLP just don’t look very happy some times. Maybe the next generation will be more cheerful.

    I’ve a great fondness for Christian Socialism. I think it’s my default setting. I’m not really a christian but I like its communitarianism. The Catholic people in my family are from mining country. Tony Benn was my grandmother’s MP and I’ve cousins who’s MP is Dennis Skinner. When my mother was very small her father died leaving her mother with three young children, no money, an outside loo and her faith. Up to a point my mother would say she raised by the Catholic Church and the Labour Party. What I remember of my grandmother’s house was that is was clean and empty with nothing much in the sitting room apart from the Mirror (the paper) and a picture of the Pope.

    My mother was a physicist and not especially religious herself but she had an abiding love of nuns. Catholic Grammar schools, free school meals, free transport, the NHS, and full University grants in the 1960’s. She said she never felt “poor” (or at least that’s what she told me). Maybe she really meant dispossessed or despairing. Maybe everyone else was poor. She had bunions which she blamed on her elder sister’s hand-me-down shoes so it couldn’t have been that easy.

    • Yep! When the British, Irish, American or wherever, government say things have to be tough or no society can afford what we all need, there’s a raised middle finger that mocks them called Scandinavia.

    • SIB, I especially loved this post amongst all of the contributions to date. Why? Because it neatly sums up for me Social Democracy, not to be confused with Socialism of course and also what I was taught being a Catholic or a Christian means. For me, it was always that notion that you could own and run a business or be a worker, but you were always given a fair crack at the whip, where you would be able to advance yourself and your family, the sense of community, tied with knowing there was a safety net to help you get you back on your feet, not for you to get tangled in and be unable to escape its clutches.

      As for the likes of Conall and his musings, he is a light weight career politician who is light on detail and is fortunate to be placed in a constituency by Margaret Ritchie where is mom and apple pie stuff is thought of as reconciliatory while I find it to be nonsensical or poorly thought out, but that’s just me, ay?

  7. Political Tourist says:

    The two big (SDLP) hitters were Fitt and Hume.
    The leaders since have been second rate.
    The fact that the SDLP have more than held their base leaves me thinking their success has more to do with the “greening” effect than any political leadership.
    Anything that pushes unionism as a political force back towards Islandmagee will do for me.

  8. Political unionism is pushing unionists away A large bulk of unionists have moved on, unionism has moved backwards, this last year and a half or more

  9. factual says:

    SDLP backed discriminatory teacher ban on protestants in Catholic schools today. SF voted against this discriminatory teacher ban. It’s called equality.

  10. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    It seems to be a settled issue in the republic factual. Looks like there is a unique position for the SDLP in Northern Irish political life after all 😉

  11. Sorry FJH for being a self centred & self promoting so and so but I would like to draw attention to a guest blogger, Cleenish, over on my site who has posted the first part of a 2 parter concerning the border, Nationalist thinking (not in the Mallie sense) and what he believes we should do. All are welcome to comment of course.

    Thanks, FC

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