It's Time to Wind up the Stoops

John Coulter with his regular Irish Daily Star column. It featured in Newshound 0n 19 November 2014

Ireland needs a new moderate nationalist party and it's time to wind up the Stoops.

The SDLP needs to face the bitter reality that its days of being the top dog in republicanism are over.

A new party is required to reclaim middle class Catholic nationalism back from the Shinners' clutches.

Sinn Féin has been able to play the high wire act of holding onto its traditional working class republican heartlands, while now roaming at will into middle class Catholic areas which were once SDLP bastions.

The Stoops have committed political suicide by steadfastly remaining a Northern-only party and have not demonstrated the courage to merge with one of their Southern counterparts, such as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Irish Labour.

With the Shinners now scooping up seats across the island, why would Northern nationalists waste their vote on a 'not an inch outside the Six Counties' republican party?

The Stoops will also be lucky to hold onto their three Commons seats in next May's poll, especially if Sinn Féin drops hints it could abandon abstentionism.

That would allow Sinn Féin to team up with Big Alex Salmond's Scottish nationalists as well as the Welsh nationalists to give Prime Minister Dandy Dave Cameron a right political migraine at Westminster.

Sinn Féin is eclipsing the SDLP in the same way the Stoops under Fitt and Hume wiped out Eddie McAteer's old Stormont nationalist movement.

So today, I'm formally launching my moderate Nationalist Party of Ireland (NPI), which I hope will replace the Stoops as the voice of sensible, caring, all-island politics.

But time is not on the side of moderate nationalists. While fingers can be pointed at the IRA pasts of top Shinners like Adams and McGuinness, a new generation of clean-cut republican is being groomed with no links to the Provos.

And these well-heeled, eloquently-spoken, degree-educated middle class Shinners are slowly but steadily beginning to dominate the corridors of Stormont.

It's only a matter of time until their presence is effectively felt in the Dail. Before you can say 'where are the alleged IRA sex abusers hiding?' Southern Shinners will follow their Northern counterparts into government at Leinster House.

To get into power, if Sinn Féin has to formally ditch the 'RA, take Commons seats, run Stormont, and abandon its hardline socialist brand, the republican movement is a cynical enough organisation to implement this.

However, it will take time to sell dropping abstentionism at Westminster to republican hardliners. That won't buy time for the Stoops as jungle drums suggest the SDLP is split into three factions.

There are those loyal to party boss Big Al McDonnell in South Belfast. The rural brigade supports popular Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, and the socialist wing is rallying behind the banner of outspoken Foyle MLA Colm Eastwood.

The Shinners also enjoy a core fanatical vote which no matter what the scandal engulfing the party, they'll turn out in their thousands to vote Sinn Féin.

Moderate nationalists have to come to terms with the reality that the SDLP simply isn't worth saving and it's a case of back to the drawing board.

And it's not as if this has been suddenly sprung on middle of the road nationalists. The SDLP has ignored warnings about Sinn Féin for years.

I recall an interview I did with the nationalist visionary, the late Paschal O'Hare, in the mid-1980s. Even then, Paschal was advising about the need for a new nationalist party. Hopefully, my NPI will fulfil that ambition.


  1. Patience John, let it all unfold in it's own time.

    Yes most folks like to hitch a ride on a rising star and Sinn Féin are indeed that, particularly when viewed on an all-Ireland basis.

    However this too shall pass.
    When SF moves to a party of government in the South the economic existential realities and responsibilities of governance will put a stop to their gallop. The absorption of previous Sinn Féiners, such as McGiolla and Frankie Ross, into the amorphous centre is a precedent that Adams & Co are likely to follow.

    Moderate nationalists like moderate unionists are a fairly conservative bunch who in truth don't want too much radical change at any level. Like conservatives the world over they crave security, stability and predictability. They will happily adhere to governance and the rule of law in so far as it serves those ends.

    In the unlikely event of the Shinners radicalising Southern politics I imagine well-educated and wealthier middle-class Nationalists would quietly and happily vote for moderate Unionist candidates if the 'stoops' weren't on the ballot paper.

    Who knows what might enfold in either state as the electorate react to the rise of Sinn Féin? Unspeakable things might happen; in the South Fiana Fáil and Fine Gael might eventually morph into a new right of centre party as might the stoops and the OU's in the north.

    Fanciful? Well, in a society that's still talking about a United Ireland after almost a century of partition, its just as feasible!

  2. Top dog in republicanism? Read enough right there!

  3. The Irish don't do moderate. Middle of the road just doesn't cut it. The SDLP would fit in nicely with the established Free state parties but but their days seem to be numbered. The t
    Failers and blue shirts seem to be pigs of the one sow at the moment and labour,well the less said about that outfit the better. As for the educated upwardly mobile shinners it will no doubt take time but they too will be found out as the gombeens that they truly are. Politician's are like lawyers,you know they are lying when you see their lips move.