National Ship must be Steadied: New Leaders Need to Emerge

John Coulter with a piece that initally featured in an Irish Daily Star column on 2 December 2013.

Nationalism urgently needs a new 'Steady Eddie' to fill the shoes of the late former South Down MP, Eddie McGrady.

'Steady Eddie' was a nationalist whom Unionists could do business with, despite being best known as the Stoop who toppled one of Westminster's leading pro-Union parliamentarians, Enoch Powell.

Just as Powell was the greatest Prime Minister Britain never had, McGrady was the greatest leader nationalism never enjoyed, having to constantly live in the massive shadows of Nobel peace prize winner John Hume and fellow SDLP founder, Lord 'Fitt the Brit'.

But time is not on its side to find a new 'Steady Eddie', who can keep nationalism from imploding in spite of the constant splits in the pro-Union family.

The Shinners may have to become more militantly republican to combat the terror threat from dissidents.

These hardline republicans feel Sinn Féin has 'sold out', become 'Anglosized', and is nothing more than a 21st century version of the now defunct Stormont Nationalist Party led by Eddie McAteer.

The Shinners' forward march across the island has deposed the Stoops as nationalism leading voice and realistically, the SDLP must either win back its European seat, or clinch the majority of nationalist super council seats if it is to halt the Sinn Féin roller coaster.

With an effective propaganda team behind him, current Stoops boss Big Al McDonnell is in prime spot to become the new 'Steady Eddie'.

Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone turned in an impressive showing in the Commons by-election this year, and should Big Al stumble, would be in prime spot to spark a rural grassroots revival in nationalism.

Ex-Stoop bosses wee Maggie and Turkey Durkey have had their day and blown their chances, but the dark horse in the SDLP remains new Stormont Executive Minister Mark H Durkan from Derry.

Although 'Steady Eddie' was no fanatical republican, the peace process has unveiled a number of sensible Shinners with no Provo links who could well snatch this prestigious crown from the Stoops.

Top of the Sinn Féin heap is present Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir, who proved his worth by attending an overtly pro-Unionist Remembrance commemoration at City Hall.

Although my preferred dream time to replace the Adams/McGuinness Shinner leadership is Donegal TD Pearse Doherty and Stormont schools boss John O'Dowd, the party might go for the trendy option of former MEP Mary Lou McDonald.

But in spite of his IRA past in Derry, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness demonstrated his bottle by branding dissident republicans as 'traitors'.

While the Adams side of the partnership is heading down the tubes, if McGuinness enjoys the same years age-wise as his former Chuckle Brother Paisley senior, he will keep the Sinn Féin ship steady well beyond 2020.

Don't rule some of the other dark horses who could have a steadying influence within nationalism.

Ballycastle councillor Paudie McShane has kept the sensible independent republican flag flying and could be a big noise in a new super council.

Alliance's Anna Lo has stood firm in spite of hardline loyalists' bitter flag protests against the party. Her stand has scored major points with moderate middle class Catholics.

And we mustn't forget the growing influence of nationalism's favourite Protestants – the NI21 double act of ex-UUP MLAs Basil McCrea and wee Johnny McCallister.

Just as the real 'Steady Eddie' built tremendous respect among Unionists, so NI21 has the potential to mobilise the massive sleeping giant of 'Garden Centre Catholics'.

1 comment:

  1. John-

    Unionists like you would support any one opposed to Sinn Fein and you still can't understand where the success is coming from-

    " mid ulster MLA McGlone turned in an impressive showing in the commons by-election "-

    The fact is that Sinn Fein won that election with Francie Molloy getting 17,462 votes whilst the stoops got 6478 votes-and you said the stoops vote was impressive to you-did you even check those figures out-