It’s quite clear to anyone watching media footage from the past few years that Colum Eastwood is fighting for the soul of the SDLP in eternal defeat. He looks worn down by the political weather and offers no fresh ideas other than a status quo consensus with the Ulster Unionists; which suits his forlorn career ambitions. But the SDLP have also been advancing the cultivated image of two other MLA’s, Claire Hanna and Nicola Mallon, both of whom seem to have their eyes set on the Leader’s job when Colum fails again to increase their electoral support. He’s a lame duck who’s evidently on his way out and has few achievements to fall back on.
Now I live in North Belfast, I was born there and have remained my whole life. I’m a Trainee Accountant but cannot forget or ignore the struggles of working class people, including the very many in the community who have helped to raise and support me from childhood to now. It really does require a village to nurture a child. And since around 2008, there have been some real meaningful advancements in community development/life North of the city – whether it’s the hub and housing at Girdwood, increased funding for youth and community groups, retention of free medical prescriptions, a new Irish language school and general improvements in our local infrastructure. I’m not going to beat around the bush about this; it has happened as a result of Republicans being in government and taking the constituency issues to a policy-making arena. That’s a fact, which is easy enough to ignore in a climate of media pessimism and cynicism.
I think most people who read the articles I write know that I’m sceptical about People Before Profit. But I don’t dispute that there are people in that party who do care about the interests of working class people, even if their ideas are simply not implementable under devolution. However, and I say this candidly, I have even graver reservations about the SDLP and any candidate with local roots who is a leading member in a virulently anti-republican party. The party which allowed for the passage of Jim Allister’s legislation against ex-prisoner employment. The party which helped introduce university tuition fees in the North. And the party with a suspect record on the same-sex marriage issue.
Nonetheless, Nicola Mallon is now on friendly terms with the extreme obscurantists in GARC – the very people who issue death threats to journalists, intimidate Priests and encourage youth to join the dissident splinter cells and then deny ever having done so – one of the groups most critical of the peace process which John Hume helped broker. It’s hard to see where the common ground lies between a professed social democrat who says nothing about Irish unity and the “blood nationalists” of GARC who are opposed to power-sharing and who’s egos desire a return to war. There is an inconsistency ideologically, no doubt. A suspect one too!
It strikes me as odd that GARC are cosying up to a party which routinely looks down their noses at them and working class people. A party which isn’t just uninterested in ex-prisoner welfare, but is anti-ex prisoner welfare, when so many in GARC have friends and relatives who served time. But it does show something pertinent – just how far some people will go to get votes and also how far others will go to seem at all relevant.
There’s no doubt that people want change. But they certainly aren’t going to get it by electing these wannabe-bourgeois political chameleons. Look at how many times the Executive collapsed under the SDLP and UUP; The Joint First Minsters were renown for not even speaking to one another; Direct Rule was usually the end result. And you had an Assembly stuffed with overtly middle class professionals who couldn’t have gave a damn about the interests of ordinary people. The point I want to finish on is this – You won’t get change by electing liberal wannabe-elites who represent the interests of the more affluent sections of society. And you certainly aren’t going to get change by electing people who don’t even live in the urban districts they ask to elect them. I have nothing against Nicola Mallon as an individual, she seems like a pleasant enough person, but only a Sinn Fein vote will alleviate the bread and butter issues North of the city while holding Arlene Foster to account for the disgraceful abuse of public monies.