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Takeover of SDLP won’t be all plain sailing for Micheál

CHALLENGE: Colum Eastwood CHALLENGE: Colum Eastwood
By Squinter

NEWS that the SDLP is on the cusp of hooking up with Fianna Fáil hasn’t half spooked the horses. The problem’s not so much that the Stoops are flailing around to find a way to stave off their demise – that’s just common sense – the problem is that nobody outside a tiny cabal at the top of the party seems to have any idea what’s going on.
It’s that old communication thing again. You’d be surprised what you’d get away with if you take the trouble to tell the people around you what’s going on. It’s the uncertainty that does the damage. The rumours, the doubt, the fear, the loathing – and that’s just in the party executive.
Party leader Colum Eastwood is keen to frame the discussions as a meeting of equals – two political parties trying to reach a mutually beneficial accommodation. Rather, as last week’s Andytown News editorial pointed out, it would be more accurately described as a fire sale, given the state of the SDLP electorally and organisationally.
The primary driving force behind the merger talks is not, of course, the SDLP, much as they are keen to salvage something from the wreckage; the main instigator is Fianna Fáil, or more accurately, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. A while back, in a bid to burnish the party’s republican credentials, Micheál promised that the party would run candidates in the north. He did this not out of any deep concern for his long-suffering and long-separated countrymen and women – he did so because the polling showed that people (and young people in particular) dug the fact that Sinn Féin was an all-Ireland party.
Almost straight away, older, wiser and more grizzled members of the party had a word in his shell-like, pointing out the many pitfalls that would in all likelihood be faced by an overweight 53-year-old farmer from Navan with sausage fingers and an ill-fitting suit knocking on a door in Turf Lodge.
– How’rya?
– Wha’?
– Oopsh. Gimme a shecond heeyur. Letsh shee now… Whaaat aaa…bout yeee?
– Not so bad, mate, what’s up?
– Oi’m here to talk tih yiz aboot deh Esh. D. L. P.
– Oh, right, I’m glad you’re here, actually. I’ve my son and his family living here and I can’t understand why he hasn’t been awarded more housing points.
– Whatsh housing pints?
– Points.
– What are dey?
– What party did you say you were from?
– Deh Sh. D. L. P.
– You sure?
You can’t see it, can you? Any more than you can see a Transitload of padded gilet-wearing gammons baling out in Lenadoon and spreading out across the estate. And so, a bit like Ladbrokes breaking Belfast courtesy of a Barney Eastwood merger, Micheál has decided that the best way to save face, the least risky way of getting active in the north, is as a cuckoo in the SDLP nest. And we all know what happens to the wee chicks when a cuckoo targets their home.
Should the merger go ahead, it’s de end of de Sh. D. L. P., even if Micheál is decent enough to let them keep the name on the brass plate at HQ. As for the more progressive, younger elements, mostly Belfast-based, well, Fine Gael is keeping a weather eye on developments because, of course, Fianna Fáil organising in the north would put them in a very tricky position, especially given Leo Varadkar’s much-publicised promise the that nationalists up here would never again be abandoned by de Free Shtate. But then the blindingly obvious hoves into full view: if you’re going to Fine Gael because you feel Fianna Fáil are too old-school, be prepared for what up here in de bleck nart is known as a quare gunk.

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