Over forty years ago, the late Paddy Devlin told me that Seamus Mallon would one day be the Leader of SDLP. It seemed very unlikely but apart from Eddie McGrady, Mallon was the only MLA from the 1973 Assembly “intake” who really joined the original six SDLP MPs at the top table.
I do not know if a three-pound trout is a big fish or a small fish and I dont speak homespun rhetoric the way that Mallon does ….but presumably saying that John Hume was “played by Sinn Féin (Gerry Adams) like a three pound trout is not exactly flattering.
I dont really understand why Mallon needed to appear with William Cawley the LetsGetAlongerist broadcaster on Radio Ulster to say that. But it seems as much about establishing his own legacy as damaging Humes.
First of all….Sinn Féin “playing people” is what they do. At one time or another, everybody has been “played” by Gerry Adams. iT is what he does.
Way back in 1973….Fr Dennis Faul was played. He was an assistant chaplain at Long Kesh and he called for a boycott of the 1973 Council and Assembly Elections to show support for the internees. Of course SF dropped Fr Faul less than a decade later when he disagreed with them over The Hunger Strike.
in 1974, Desmond Gillespie MLA for SDLP was approached by a woman whose son was arrested. He drove her to Springfield Road RUC Station. The woman was grateful and tearful…but not that much because less than two weeks later, she was part of a Sinn Féin picket outside Desmond’s house.
A couple of years ago, I was at an Féile event at St Oliver Plunketts Church at Lenadoon. i heard a phalanx of “ex-prisoners” stand up in the audience and say “I am a republican ex-prisoner and an athiest and the Catholic Church did nothing for me when I was in Long Kesh”.
A blatant lie.
And Dr John Brewer, from QUB was there and he was talking about the importance of listening to ex-prisoners.
So what have we? Well John Hume was played. Desmond Gillespie was played. Fr Dennis Faul was played. And all those Conflict Resolutionists will be played.
There is a pattern …Sinn Féin plays people. If a member of Sinn Féin talks to you, there is a reason.
But yet again, I put on record that I voted Sinn Féin from 1993 to 2009. Initially at least, it was for personal rather than political reasons. But I know they are a bunch of con-artists. In part I dont really mind…I am an old school con-artist myself.
But I dont suppose that it is much different in Markethill. After all, other people have played Seamus Mallon. In just about every speech he has made in recent years, he has referenced that the British and Irish governments sold out the SDLP and UUP.
So I dont really get the difference. If John Hume was played by Sinn Féin, then surely Seamus Mallon was played by….Blair, Ahearn, Mandelson, Mowlam, Hain, Murphy and Reid….to name just a few.
As I have said in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, I perceived that SDLP Leadership was hopeless. Whatever the individual talents of Mallon, Brid Rodgers, Sean Farren and Carmel Hanna and Mark Durkan….not to mention their Special Advisors, I remain totally unimpressed by the collective leadership. Mark Durkan took over a disaster from Mallon.
All of which makes the “grandees” a curious bunch to be pushing Conall McDevitt (an advisor to Brid) and latterly “Anybody But Alasdair”.
Of course those Derry wans who welcomed Mallon’s intervention to back Colum Eastwood might not welcome this intervention which paints John Hume in a poor light.
There is a lazy attitude within SDLP that Seamus Mallon is some kinda visionary. He is not.
Memorably he said that the Good Friday Agreement was “Sunningdale for Slow Learners”. That backfired …..the next Agreement twenty years ahead of us will be the “Good Friday Agreement for Slow Learners”.
I am reasonably optimistic about SDLP prospects but there needs to be an appreciation that SDLP politicians, including Mallon got it hopelessly wrong. hE cant blame the British and Irish GOvernments forever.