SDLP’s shameful failure to acknowledge centenary of Rising

Posted By: April 04, 2016

Patrick Fahy. Letters. Irish News (Belfast).Monday April 4, 2016

Over the Easter period nationalist parties of all hues, and throughout Ireland north and south, have been commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916. In our own village of Drumquin, the local community held a most enjoyable event. A specially commissioned commemorative stone was unveiled, wreaths were laid in memory of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom in the Rising and local actors played in a historical drama based on the events of 1916 and later decades of the national struggle. As a northern nationalist community, we believed our day of remembrance was fitting given that the Rising marked a seminal moment in the efforts of the Irish people to gain freedom and independence.

The only party not to have commemorated the Rising, either locally or nationally, was the SDLP. This may appear surprising, given that the SDLP claims to be a nationalist party. Indeed, only recently, its leader publicly claimed to be in favor of a united Ireland. How he or his party can square this assertion with their shameful failure to even acknowledge the centenary of the Rising is difficult to understand. Except, that is, if you examine the history of the SDLP. Once claiming to be nationalist, it then began to describe itself as “a post-nationalist party.” The SDLP were effectively asking northern nationalists to believe that they should somehow or other regard themselves as being ‘”nternationalists,” or else as a people for whom their Irish nationality was of no consequence. Surely a ludicrous proposition for a nominally nationalist party to be asking northern nationalist people to abandon their birthright. The SDLP has never retreated from this post-nationalist position. In truth, if they would admit it, they believe that the 26-county state sufficiently represents their idea of the Irish nation. How else can they explain the complaint from their spokesperson Dolores Kelly that northern unionists had not joined in the state celebrations of the Rising in the south, at the same time as they, a supposedly nationalist party, were ignoring the centenary? The fact is that the SDLP is happy to accept the northern state as a final solution. They have indeed publicly indicated their willingness to join with sections of political unionism in abandoning the structures of partnership government at Stormont which were so dearly won by nationalist Ireland through the Good Friday Agreement. We should be under no illusions as to what the SDLP offer us when in their election posters they promise “A New Beginning.”  It is nothing more or less than a return to sectarian majority rule in the north, and the abandonment of the dream of Irish unity and independence, that the men and women of 1916, and of subsequent generations, gave their lives for. Is it any wonder, then, that the SDLP chose as a party to ignore the centenary of the 1916 Rising?