The departure of Conall McDevitt from the Assembly, whether one likes him or not, has dealt a huge blow to the SDLP.
His talents as an orator and media pundit were, even if you didn’t agree with him, respected by many.
The second seat in South Belfast has been a boon to the party, albeit a party already reeling from its last electoral reverses.
And, according to ‘well-placed’ sources in the party, an internal wrangle about who will replace Conall is already underway, despite the outward shows of unity.
With a total of 14 Assembly seats out of 108 and reverses in the last council election, one wonders why the party hierarchy is not screaming and yelling at members to “just shut up”.
The propensity to wash dirty linen in the public sphere is one that some of our media addicted politicians seem to enjoy.
Dear deluded fools; journalists are not your friends. To them, you are a contact, a source of gossip.
All they care about is the story. A newsworthy story.
And, what better story than a party, allegedly, ripping itself apart? The lessons learned from watching the Ulster Unionists do just that seem to be lost on the SDLP, as the south Belfast intelligentsia and factions plot their stratagems.
The party is as leaky as a sieve in a thunderstorm.
But constitutionally and electorally this death by a thousand cuts of the SDLP could result in the next Northern Ireland Executive being a DUP/Sinn Féin/Alliance coalition. Laughing? Just wait.
We know that Richard Haass is a skilled diplomat with a keen eye for detail and sensitivity. We didn’t know he was a comedian.
According to those ever reliable media sources, he has written to the parties asking them a series of questions: a sort of wants and needs list, if you like.
We can only imagine the answers, and how Haass will roar with hysterical humour as he reads them...
Exclusive parading rights, anywhere, and at any time. The right to protest and be offended by anything at any time.
A villa in France and an all-expenses paid holiday – sorry, neutral venue for talks – at a global location of our choosing may also be on the ‘needs’ list.
The wants list is likely to be even longer...a chauffeured Bentley Continental, bank accounts in off-shore locations away from the media and tax man’s view; maybe even a lifetime supply of Tayto crisps and pastie suppers....
If he secures all that for the parties and solves the parading issue, he will have a lot of happy MLAs and the inter-community rioting will cease. But both ‘sides’ will then join together and have a cross-community riot about the settlement. Probably a European Union grant is available for cross-community riots...