I think it has been assumed for some time that Alban Maginness would stand down from Politics in 2016.
He joins Joe Byrne, Dominic Bradley, Pat Ramsey, and John Dallat as SDLP “veterans” who are making way for younger colleagues at the Assembly election in May.
It is likely that one of two former “Lord” Mayors will succeed him…Nichola Mallon or Pat Convery but in generational and gender terms, the odds favour Nichola.
I first met Alban in early 1974. I had written an article in the first issue of “Social Democrat” and Alban was one of about ten people who attended a follow up meeting in a small terraced house, which SDLP Falls Branch used as an office and meeting place. It was about one hundred metres from Andersonstown RUC Station.
He has/had a slightly patrician air, befitting a barrister but one of the most good natured and decent people I know.
During his term as “Lord” Mayor, he stopped to speak to me on the train to Dublin. Mrs FJH was very impressed by this.
He was of course the first “nationalist” Mayor of the city and in 2015, many people may not see this as the history-making achievement that it was then.
Like many, I can testify to his decency. As I have said before, I voted Sinn Féin, initially for personal reasons from 1993 to 2009….and I have been voting SDLP since 2009, initially for personal reasons as it felt right to vote for Alban in the European elections. I value Decency.
And it is no coincidence that many SDLP veterans standing down are touched by Decency.
Joe Byrne would always mention my blog “still blogging away?” And Dominic Bradley would always say “still agitating?”
Pat Ramsey was the ultimate grassroots politician. Isnt it beyond a coincidence that Pat could reach parts of the electorate because of his advocacy for Disability Rights and that Dominic could reach parts of the electorate because of his advocacy for children with Autism.
Alban of course was SDLP Spokesperson for Justice.
All these men will be missed and as SDLP rushes to promote new names and faces like Connor Duncan, Margaret Anne McKillio, Roisin Lynch, Richie McPhillips, Justin McNulty and others….there will be a void.
When the new SDLP Assembly team meets after the Assembly Election, it is possibly going to be larger than it is now…but in terms of seniority it will have a different look….the three former Party Leaders are all semi-detached at Westminster…and without counting chickens, that puts Colum Eastwood,, Fearghal McKinney, Mark H Durkan, Patsy McGlone and Dolores Kelly firmly at the centre of things. And it suddenly promotes Claire Hanna to being a senior figure.
With respect to Sean Rogers (standing in a constituency where SDLP will take at least two seats from three candidates) and Karen McKevitt (moved to the Armagh-Newry seat as part of a challenge with Justin) they are not central Leadership figures…they are in the tradition of decent constituency representatives.
I have excluded Alex Attwood because I have not formally heard that he is standing again. I would not be surprised if another Attwood (Tim) is on the West Belfast ballot paper.
BY THE WAY, IN THIS POST, I AM NOT ENCOURAGING SPECULATION ABOUT THE NUMBER OF SEATS SDLP WILL HAVE AFTER MAY 2016. NO COMMENT WILL BE PUBLISHED IF THERE IS SPECULATION.
Yet, Alban …apart from being the SDLP member who was against Equal Marriage, made no real impact on the. Local Blogosphere. Neither did Pat, Dominic or Joe. The thing is …Blogging is an activity which mostly exists in Belfast metroplitan area. As David McCann (Deputy Editor at Slugger O’Toole) asked two months ago “is there anything to see in Armagh?”
But Politics is generational and SDLP has possibly bridged the gap between the successful Hume years and the unsuccessful Mallon years….to at least a place where there is little connexion to the past. The three subsequent Leaders played a part.
So this will mean the new Assembly team and those whizz kids with degrees in Politics (testimony to their brilliance) in the back rooms of Stormont are now all younger than me.
Perhaps the cult of Youth has gone too far in SDLP. The Party cannot get carried away with the whole “Youth is Brilliant” thing. It can alienate voters.
Politics should never be a career like any other. It is only a job that is in the gift of voters and for periods of five years. The mandate of a 70 year old is as valid as the mandate of a 30 year old.
It cant be a job that is taken aged 18 and given up at age 60.
After all a lot of older people vote. Yes “Mól an Óige….” And all that. But it would be folly to ignore the wisdom of old people….especially me!.
Meanwhile SDLP has not selected a candidate for East Belfast. They have my number.