Republican News · Thursday 04 May 2000

[An Phoblacht]

The leaked report into an obsolete, tired and leadership-driven party is a public acknowledgement that the SDLP has no vision for Ireland, writes Caítlin Doherty

Report confirms SDLP is in crisis

Last week's leaked internal SDLP document has revealed what many already know: it confirmed that the party is an obsolete, tired machine out of touch with its grass roots and failing to attract new members. The most interesting conclusions of the leaked internal diagnostic, however, slipped between the headlines.

For the first time in 30 years, members of the party and supporters publicly acknowledged that the political formation that describes itself as the largest nationalist party of ``the province'' has no vision for Ireland. By referring exclusively to politics in the context of the Six Counties, the report confirms that the SDLP's entire philosophy and ethos stops at the border.

The very fact that the report ignores the rest of the island shows that the SDLP's priority is to defend its narrow self-interest on a partitionist platform.

The report is also an indictment of how the party has abandoned (and is encouraged to further sacrifice) what is left of its founding ethos and philosophy in terms of nationalist objectives on the altar of short-term electoral gain.

The report also advocates a shift to encourage unionist support. It recommends the leadership act to attract middle-class unionist voters by winning over the hearts and minds of Alliance voters.

By recommending changes to attract more unionist votes, the party is encouraged to isolate and demonise Sinn Féin.

The implications of such recommendations are far-reaching. If the SDLP goes ahead with a unionist-vote-winning strategy, it will be forced to abandon the idea that politics without republicans is going nowhere. In short, the SDLP could join the camp of those who refuse to acknowledge and respect Sinn Féin's democratic mandate.

In attempting to counter Sinn Féin's electoral success, the SDLP is, ironically, urged not to rock the boat regarding the survival of the union. Such recommendations contradict the image the SDLP is currently attempting to convey. They run against the basic ethos of nationalism in the North and South of the island.

If the report shows anything, it is that the SDLP has totally lost its nationalist and socialist ethos to become a party driven by electoral opportunism. Whatever changes are made in the coming months, it is clear that without a radical re-thinking of its raison d'être, the party will continue to evolve as the defender of the status quo and offer no more to nationalists than Alliance or the Ulster Unionists.

This report reveals a party lacking the will to defend the cause of Irish unity, a party in crisis, a party that gives the strong impression that it is no longer really interested.

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