SDLP Seeking a Future for Itself
Deaglán de Bréadún
The Progressive Democrats arguably achieved most of their aims and their free-market, neo-liberal policies were adopted by the mainstream, so there was no further rationale for their existence. The SDLP in the North could say the same about their own role in the peace process.
So if Sinn Féin and the Provos have forsworn violent methods, is there any reason for the SDLP to continue in existence? It was a question on the minds of about 30 people who turned out on a cold winter’s evening to listen to Tom Savage, Conall McDevitt and yours truly talking about North-South relations at a public meeting organised by the party’s Dublin support group last night.
A former party press officer, McDevitt is tipped to become a Stormont MLA in the near future, when a sitting MLA steps down (same as the MEP system of substitutes). He was arguing for greater engagement with the unionists and tentatively setting out an agenda for his party in that regard.
Tom Savage, currently chair of the RTE Authority, had some very interesting observations on the way politicians interact with the media. The present writer – who, like Savage, has no party affiliation – spoke mainly about the role of the SDLP in the early years of the Troubles: the glory days of Hume, Fitt, Mallon, Currie, Paddy Devlin, Ivan Cooper, Paddy O’Hanlon and others.
The stagnation at Stormont is quite depressing in the light of the high expectations aroused after the Good Friday Agreement. Can’t these people agree on anything? Maybe there is a role for the SDLP in breaking-out of the tribal stereotypes and the siege mentality?