So things have got nasty.
Overnight the Constituency Office of Alban Magennis, SDLP MLA for North Belfast was attacked. The SDLP Office is actually above a business on the Antrim Road and as you will see, the people who daubed the office door, also left their mark on that business.
The finger points at the Republican Network for Unity, a dissident group largely based in North Belfast. The reason behind the attack is The recent announcement by SDLP that it will support the National Crime Agency (a British FBI-like Agency, which will combat organised crime). The SDLP had been opposed but negotiated to have the NCA overseen by the Policing Board, thus making it locally accountable.
There are a few points here. RNU are opposed to the Peace Process in general. And rather like loyalists atacked Alliance Party offices, in the wake of the Fleg (sic) Decision in December 2012, RNU have attacked SDLP Office.
Republican Dissidents and Loyalist Dissidents. …but the test of course two years ago was that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness visited Alliance Party offices to show support for the democratic process.Indeed SDLP politicians did likewise.
Of course, this presented a problem for Robinson. His DUP were also highly critical of the Alliance decision and have been ruthlessly trying to take back the East Belfast seat, Robinson lost to Alliance in 2010. Mainstream Unionism had the dilemna of condemning Alliance decisions, while supporting the democratic process against undemocratic loyalist thugs in East Belfast.
Yet there is a parallel in North Belfast. Gerry Kelly and Sinn Féin are trying to take the Westmimster seat in May. To do so, they have to squeeze the SDLP vote. They would want to use the NCA issue and yet they have to condemn SDLP decisions, while supporting the democratic process against undemocratic republican thugs in North Belfast.
Thats how it goes. Republican Dissidents. Loyalist Dissidents. Republican thugs. Loyalist thugs.
Sinn Féin. DUP.
Of course, this is an isolated incident and specific to North Belfast. Nobody has been hurt. No need for an anti-SDLP message board like Slugger O’Toole to run multiple threads. And no need for Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty to produce a new “Je Suis SDLP” placard and stand outside the City Hall in Belfast.
But lets be serious. This is an attempt to intimidate SDLP. Why? Well even the most vocal critics of SDLP might say that the Party is doing quite well recently. They have focussed well on the “Victims” issues, stayed well clear of the DUP-Sinn Féin-Alliance carve up. And the Welfare Cuts issue has undermined Sinn Féin. Important also that better organisation and new faces like Justin McNulty and Daniel McCrossan have given SDLP a confidence that I have not seen in several years.
In some ways, the disgusting attack on the North Belfast office reflects SDLP relevance.