23 March 2005 Edition
Petty politics spoil SDLP initiative
The decision of the SDLP to produce a document on Irish unity must be looked at as a positive development. Sinn Féin has always said that a mark of its success is the adoption of its strategies by its opponents.
But as always, petty politics from the SDLP have gotten in the way of what should have been a good day for Irish nationalism.
Interviewed on RTÉ 1 last Monday, party leader Mark Durkon claimed that the document was a mere reiteration of SDLP policy and then attacked Sinn Féin's proposals for a Green Paper on Irish Unity, launched last month, as well as declaring that the party had damaged the name of nationalism.
Sinn Féin's demand for Irish independence and unity has always been up front and clear. The same can't be said of the SDLP. During a recent election campaign, the SDLP told us that we now lived in a post-nationalist situation and the demand for Irish unity was no longer a realistic goal. Sinn Féin rejected this notion at the time and continues to do so.
Durkan's ill-timed and puerile attacks on Sinn Féin have made what should have been an encouraging sign of a united front in Irish nationalism, little more than another indication of the SDLP's slow demise. It is no coincidence that the party's decision to launch this document has less to do with the issue's importance and more to do with the General Election that takes place shortly.
The truth of this can be seen in how both parties have responded to Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern's comments, made at the SDLP's Newry launch of its document, about how he doesn't regard a Green Paper on Irish Unity as relevant.
Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin immediately challenged the Minister, saying a Green paper is relevant, essential and long overdue. He also pointed out how bizarre it was to hear a senior representative of the largest 'republican' party on the island opposing efforts to transform the aspiration for Irish unity into a real goal.
The response of the SDLP to this ridiculous admission from Ahern — well nothing, so far.
And yet, you'd be right to expect that any party interested in Irish unity would be appaled and concerned by such a statement from a member of a Dublin Government.
If recent developments from the SDLP are a genuine shift away from the folly of their post nationalist position onto the ground of Irish unity, then they should add one more positive move to their agenda — working with others in the nationalist and republican arena, rather than against them for the purpose of petty politics.