FF and SDLP – a challenging marriage


Sir, – If, as discussed in your editorial “A challenging political marriage” (January 3rd), the SDLP merged into Fianna Fáil, and if then the merged party were to win seats in the Westminster parliament, would we see Fianna Fáil MPs taking the oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and her successors? No doubt they would claim that the oath was an “empty formula”; there is, for them, an unimpeachable precedent for that!

The presence of Fianna Fáil MPs at Westminster would have the great benefit of giving Northern Irish nationalists some necessary representation in some functioning parliamentary assembly.

That consideration should outweigh any other, including squeamishness about taking the oath? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – The description by Nichola Mallon, the SDLP’s deputy leader, of “the biggest sociopolitical challenge since partition in the form of Brexit” rings so true.

In 1989, I stood as Labour ’87 candidate in the European elections in the North. We advocated a bill of rights and a power-sharing devolved government as essential means of progressing beyond two decades of conflict. Until two years ago, I remained sanguine that, however hesitantly, we were building a new society which welcomed diversity and was gaining strength economically. It was also my hope that a new alignment of politics in both parts of our island could emerge, based on social and economic priorities and discarding old sectarian stereotypes.

Now I share Ms Mallon’s plea that, in order to end this current dangerous vacuum, we need to be prepared to embrace change.

In this spirit, I wish both Fianna Fáil and the SDLP well in their deliberations.

May I add one gentle reminder?

The founders of the SDLP, John Hume, Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin, placed a strong emphasis on the word “Labour” in the party’s title, and policies that would attract a diverse new membership across Northern Ireland, including many “unionists” who wished to see stronger, mutually beneficial bonds between the North and the South.

Some 56 per cent of Northern Irish voters in the referendum in 2016 wished to remain in the EU.

They are at present without an effective political voice. – Yours, etc,



Co Derry.