We in Northern Ireland are used to political parties that don’t do what they say on the tin. It’s the same principle that used to apply to Soviet and Chinese client states. If it calls itself the People’s Democratic Republic of Upper Whangoria, you can be damned sure it isn’t democratic, a republic, or the property of the people.
But, even against the background of such perpetually-stretched credulity, how utterly breathtaking that, this weekend, we saw a member, and flagship figure, of the supposedly Social Democratic and Labour Party rushing to make single-issue common cause with the Religious Right.
The Religious Right. A movement anathema to any true Social (or Liberal) Democrat, any true Socialist, or any citizen of Northern Ireland who chooses not to deny selectively our history, and chooses to remember what politicised religious bigotry does to a society. A movement anathema in its local forms, and anathema in the form of Rosemary Scallon, with her connections to right-wing religious broadcasting in the US.
I know the SDLP aren’t the most cutting-edge party, but even they must realise that they are latching on to the Religious Right just as it starts to wane in its American homeland. And, don’t I remember John Hume insisting many times, on many television panels during the 1980s and 90s, that the SDLP was not a confessional party?
Which leaves us, the voters of Upper Whang…er…North Belfast, wondering if Alban Maginness any longer represents his electorate or his party, or just his own ideology.
A couple of political aphorisms for Mr. Maginness – 1) Politics does make strange bedfellows, and the more fanatically single-issue, the stranger, but 2) those who lie with dogs can catch fleas. In your current associations, you might catch all kinds of everything.