It’s time to wind up the Stoops
(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)
Ireland needs a new moderate nationalist party and it’s time to wind up the Stoops.
The SDLP needs to face the bitter reality that its days of being the top dog in republicanism are over.
A new party is required to reclaim middle class Catholic nationalism back from the Shinners’ clutches.
Sinn Féin has been able to play the high wire act of holding onto its traditional working class republican heartlands, while now roaming at will into middle class Catholic areas which were once SDLP bastions.
The Stoops have committed political suicide by steadfastly remaining a Northern-only party and have not demonstrated the courage to merge with one of their Southern counterparts, such as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Irish Labour.
With the Shinners now scooping up seats across the island, why would Northern nationalists waste their vote on a ‘not an inch outside the Six Counties’ republican party?
The Stoops will also be lucky to hold onto their three Commons seats in next May’s poll, especially if Sinn Féin drops hints it could abandon abstentionism.
That would allow Sinn Féin to team up with Big Alex Salmond’s Scottish nationalists as well as the Welsh nationalists to give Prime Minister Dandy Dave Cameron a right political migraine at Westminster.
Sinn Féin is eclipsing the SDLP in the same way the Stoops under Fitt and Hume wiped out Eddie McAteer’s old Stormont nationalist movement.
So today, I’m formally launching my moderate Nationalist Party of Ireland (NPI), which I hope will replace the Stoops as the voice of sensible, caring, all-island politics.
But time is not on the side of moderate nationalists. While fingers can be pointed at the IRA pasts of top Shinners like Adams and McGuinness, a new generation of clean-cut republican is being groomed with no links to the Provos.
And these well-heeled, eloquently-spoken, degree-educated middle class Shinners are slowly but steadily beginning to dominate the corridors of Stormont.
It’s only a matter of time until their presence is effectively felt in the Dail. Before you can say ‘where are the alleged IRA sex abusers hiding?’ Southern Shinners will follow their Northern counterparts into government at Leinster House.
To get into power, if Sinn Féin has to formally ditch the ‘RA, take Commons seats, run Stormont, and abandon its hardline socialist brand, the republican movement is a cynical enough organisation to implement this.
However, it will take time to sell dropping abstentionism at Westminster to republican hardliners. That won’t buy time for the Stoops as jungle drums suggest the SDLP is split into three factions.
There are those loyal to party boss Big Al McDonnell in South Belfast. The rural brigade supports popular Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, and the socialist wing is rallying behind the banner of outspoken Foyle MLA Colm Eastwood.
The Shinners also enjoy a core fanatical vote which no matter what the scandal engulfing the party, they’ll turn out in their thousands to vote Sinn Féin.
Moderate nationalists have to come to terms with the reality that the SDLP simply isn’t worth saving and it’s a case of back to the drawing board.
And it’s not as if this has been suddenly sprung on middle of the road nationalists. The SDLP has ignored warnings about Sinn Féin for years.
I recall an interview I did with the nationalist visionary, the late Paschal O’Hare, in the mid-1980s. Even then, Paschal was advising about the need for a new nationalist party. Hopefully, my NPI will fulfil that ambition.
November 19, 2014________________
This article appeared in the November 18, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.