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Why has the SDLP declined?

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Transfer-Encoding: chunked ´╗┐Why has the SDLP declined? The SDLP was founded in 1970 and its origins lie in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. It has never been violent or supported paramilitary groups. It has been active in all peace initiatives put forward by the British government and naturally supported the Good Friday Agreement (Hume even won a Nobel Peace Prize). In 1998 the SDLP won 24 seats, which made them the largest Nationalist party, and Seamus Mallon became deputy First Minister. However, since then they have been in steady decline, and in 2003 ceased to be the largest Nationalist party. This was evidenced in the most recent assembly election when they got 12 MLAs which is a decrease of two from last time. They have also declined in Westminster, as currently they have 3 MPs to Sinn Fein?s 4. They also have no MEPs. There are many reasons for this decline, the first of which is how they effectively lent votes during the ceasefire. When SF were banned from the North/South Ministerial Council the SDLP criticised the exclusion and said it was ?not helpful? for the workings of the Assembly. ...read more.


SF Ministers in the Executive were effective and popular. Martin McGuinness was transformed into an effective Deputy First Minister. Sinn Fein gradually moderated to the point where they occupied the same centre left political ground of the SDLP. The SDLP would have to fight to be relevant. For example, on key issues such as education, Sinn Fein and SDLP have extremely similar views. They both support the abolishment of academic selection and the creation of all-ability comprehensive state schools. This could lead voters to question why there even needs to be two Nationalist parties. There is the view that much of the success of Sinn Fein is due to the failure of the SDLP to maintain, never mind extend, its appeal to Nationalist voters. The SDLP have always been used as a ?go between? when negotiating with Sinn Fein. Both the DUP and UUP have never had any problem working with the SDLP. The SDLP are in a position where they do not want to side with Sinn Fein too much or else they will lose their unique party identity, but at the same time if they condemn Sinn Fein it could be perceived as siding with the Unionists. ...read more.


The SDLP therefore linked up with Fianna Fail in the Republic of Ireland in the 2010 elections. This was an attempt to show Nationalist voters that they are a serious all-Ireland party and a vote for them would be a vote for a party aligned with the actual government of the Republic of Ireland. However, Nationalist voters were not convinced by the measures and still see Sinn Fein as the best way to achieve a united Ireland. Finally, the SDLP have also appeared foolish in some of their decisions. Their appointment of lacklustre leaders fails to inspire. Damaging gaffes such as Alasdair McDonnell's opening speech on being elected, his failure to court the UUP into a joint approach and his defence of MLA's pay have only served to deepen divisions. The SDLP have also been accused of poor policy decisions. Many have criticised the SDLP for their approach to austerity. Despite being linked to the British Labour party, they have signed up to the Stormont House agreement to implement the welfare reform act. There have also been controversies over the party?s opposition to abortion - which have drawn criticisms from doctors. They also seemed to play into the DUP's hands by not opposing the SPAD bill (Special advisors). ...read more.

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