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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Shinners must Stoop to conquer

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

The Stoops merging with the Shinners is the only workable solution to save moderate nationalism's middle class Catholic voice.

Talk of a poll pact with the election-numbed Ulster Unionists is as daft as Sinn Féin's Westminster abstention policy.

An SDLP/UUP pact is akin to two men who can't swim, stranded on the Titanic, and fighting for the last life jacket. It simply won't work if saving the Stoops is the only agenda!

Big Al McDonnell is a very nice guy, but under his leadership, the Stoops have become a sinking ship and will soon go the way of the old Stormont Nationalist Party.

After the SDLP and UUP's disastrous European poll outing with Alex Attwood crashing and burning, and Big Jimmy Nic scraping back, rumours are rife in both camps of impending leadership coups.

Mikey Nesbitt may be safe in the UUP given no-one wants the post, but keep an eye on South Antrim's Danny Kinahan, and former NI21 deputy boss wee Johnnie McCallister.

But it's clear that Big Al's days are numbered as SDLP chief.

The Stoops will only remain alive as a separate party if the Durkans – Stormont minister Mark H, and Foyle MP Mark – can use their powerful clique to mastermind a rural revival with popular Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone as boss.

And forget the concept of a Pan Nationalist Front in the North. The only answer is a single nationalist party conceived from the formal merger of the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

The one Stoop politician with the vision to see the need for this was former North Antrim MLA Declan O'Loan.

But when this visionary publicly agreed with my very sensible suggestion of a single, united nationalist movement, he got severely crapped on by his Stoop bosses.

Thankfully, Dekki did not walk away from the Stoops after losing his Assembly seat to the Shinners and has now gained a seat on the new Mid and East Antrim super council.

While merger has been the only hope of giving the Stoops an all-Ireland identity to rival the Shinners, the query was always who would the SDLP combine with?

The Stoops should have merged with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, or even Irish Labour when the SDLP held the coveted post of Stormont deputy First Minister.

But the Stoops basked too long in the glory of John Hume winning the Nobel Peace Prize and didn't notice the Shinners sneaking up on them until it was too late.

With Unionism irreparably split, the notion of a single Unionist Party is a dead duck. Now is the time for nationalism to launch its single republican party.

In spite of Sinn Féin gains in Europe and councils, the party still needs to convince Southern voters that it is more than simply an anti-austerity protest party.

Nearly a century on, the wounds of the Irish Civil War are still raw in Southern politics.

Even if the working title of the new merged party is the Pan Nationalist Front, it would still have enough impact to give it the majority of the North's Commons seats in next year's Westminster poll, and beat the Unionist family in the 2016 Stormont election.

Marty McGuinness and Big Al will soon have to decide what their respective political legacies will be.

They can make a start by coming back after the summer recess and declaring that the merged Pan Nationalist Front is a reality, not a political fantasy to spook Unionists.

July 8, 2014
________________

This article appeared in the July 7, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

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