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SDLP must beware pan-nationalist Trojan horse

(Tom Kelly, Irish News)

You definitely have to hand it to some politicians, especially those tasked with the job of Secretary of State. One of the qualifications for the job must be optimism as last week, the new boy Peter Hain declared that if the will exists a deal could be done within 'months' even 'weeks!'. No doubt Mr Hain, who likes to be in the thick of Westminster life, would like a speedy resolution to the impasse which would see him returned from our political Siberia to the corridors of power.

However, it's more than likely he can go on holidays in the certainty of the status quo. Of course with the marching season fast approaching; an increase in sectarian attacks and the expectation of progress in the whodunit search for the perpetrators of the Northern Bank heist and McCartney murder, nothing positive will happen that will bring the main protagonists together. The political omens are not good either as the SDLP has been appealing to anyone who will listen for the reconstitution of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, while Sinn Féin is desperate for an agreed pan- nationalist front with a range of provisional mouthpieces calling for post election unity with the SDLP.

The DUP don't want to deal with anyone who isn't like them and the Ulster Unionists, under the leadership of the magi from the east, are looking for a saviour.

Add into the mix P O'Neill playing 'footsie' with the British and Irish establishments in an attempt to lure them into bed, while their loyalist counterparts are trying to siphon their illgotten gains and a few bodies out of the country. Is it any wonder the acronym for the Secretary of State is 'SoS' or that the Chief Constable went off to Baghdad for some light relief?

The SDLP still don't get it. Their calls to reestablish the forum show a degree of political naivety. What would the forum achieve? Already there is a consensus among the main stream constitutional political parties on the island of Ireland. After the first meeting of the forum calling on the Provisional movement to go away, what would it do except provide a much needed national platform for Sinn Féin just when they need it most?

Flushed rather than relieved with victory, the SDLP rush to take the political high ground will only play into the hands of the more media savvy Sinn Féin.

The dangers of assembling a national orchestra are many and the SDLP should know that writing the score usually leaves audiences asking Sinn Féin for an encore.

A plethora of republican commentators through various media outlets are carefully crafting messages about pan-nationalist unity and the trap is being laid.

At this moment of 'relative' weakness for Sinn Féin, what better Trojan horse could they find than the SDLP created 'national forum'? When will the SDLP leadership learn that snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is not a political past time its workers or supporters enjoy?

Let Sinn Féin make the next move, it's time for reflection in the SDLP.

Post September 11, the arms export market is proving less than lucrative and with sales teams going AWOL in Latin America, the Provisional movement may throw General de Chastelain a few items from the armoury. In fairness to them, every vestige of provisional rhetoric and ideology has, over 15 years, been assiduously stripped away but like the story about the emperor's new clothes; no-one has been brave enough to tell the truth.

Instead the Sinn Féin tactic has been to rewrite history by using propaganda and the arts.

We have willing government players in this nonsense too, such as those who have allowed provisional monuments to go up without planning permission or the equally culpable who promote paramilitary murals as 'cultural' tourism. Now we are to be subjected to the Maze prison becoming a 'cultural icon' in the fabric of our post conflict society.

The majority of people never saw the inside of the Maze because they abhorred the actions of those who made the Maze necessary and that included the securocrats and the paramilitaries in equal measure.

So it seems in peace as in war, the silent majority who endured the pain of the past are about to pay again. Perhaps we need SoS as a signal too!

May 24, 2005

This article appeared first in the May 23, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News