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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006, 11:04 GMT
Northern Ireland: The SDLP and the House of Lords
Robin Sheeran
Robin Sheeran
The Politics Show Northern Ireland

Lord Fitt
Lord Fitt

The House of Lords was once described as 'the perfect eventide home'.

Things have changed since the 79 year-old Baroness Stocks made this dismissive comment in 1970.

Seven years ago Tony Blair sent most of the hereditary peers packing.

It was the biggest shake-up of the Upper House since the Civil War in the 17th Century when the Roundheads sent their lordships on an extended holiday for 11 years.

So far, proposals for a partially elected chamber have failed to make it beyond the drawing board.

Up until now the majority of Northern Ireland members of the Lords have been from the Ulster Unionist Party: the party of the Establishment in the ultimate home of the British Establishment.

This could change soon if members of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party are ennobled to reflect the party's position as the biggest in Northern Ireland.

It would still leave nationalists unrepresented in the Lords. With Sinn Fein rejecting any notion of swearing loyalty to the Queen and taking seats in any part of the British Parliament, some have suggested that the time has come for the SDLP to take the ermine and accept seats in the Upper House.

This week on Politics Show from Northern Ireland our reporter, Rosy Billingham, asks whether Mark Durkan's party is likely to do a u-turn and opt into the aristocracy.

"The SDLP is 100% for a United Ireland": party manifesto for 2005 General Election.

The ex-SDLP leader, Gerry Fitt, accepted a peerage after losing his West Belfast Commons seat to Gerry Adams in 1983.

Lord Fitt was no longer a member of the party, but his lonely political fate could be enough to put off any nationalist from following in his footsteps.

Interest in the SDLP's attitude to the Lords has been revived by Tom Kelly's acceptance of an OBE in the New Year honours.

Mr Kelly, a former senior member of the party, left the SDLP when he was appointed to the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

The Politics Show

The Politics Show from Northern Ireland presented by Jim Fitzpatrick.

Tune in to the Politics Show from Northern Ireland on BBC One on Sunday29 January 2005 at Noon.

You get a second chance to see the programme again that night, at 23.15 on BBC One.

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11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show


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