Northern Ireland news

State papers: SDLP `insider' Tom Kelly critical of Seamus Mallon

Tom Kelly told the NIO official `Mallon himself never offered any positive views nor contributed to party policy'. Picture via Tom Kelly
Éamon Phoenix

A CRITICAL `insider' view of the SDLP leadership in 1992 is revealed in previously confidential files released today.

In a memo to Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew, dated June 3, 1992, Peter May of the NIO's Political Affairs Division reported a conversation with Tom Kelly, election agent to Joe Hendron in his successful west Belfast campaign against Gerry Adams.

Mr Kelly, the official noted, was "young and articulate" and had master-minded a series of successful election campaigns for the SDLP, including Seamus Mallon's victory in Newry and Armagh in a 1986 by-election.

A member of the SDLP executive, Mr Kelly was described as "on the right of the party and... not as green as Mallon", who he used to work for.

He commented to the official that "Mallon himself never offered any positive views nor contributed to party policy".

He was critical of the SDLP deputy leader and his attitude generally, which he characterised, as "maintaining maximum independence from the Newry and Armagh area so that he could act without constraints".

Tom Kelly had master-minded a series of successful election campaigns for the SDLP, including Seamus Mallon's victory in Newry and Armagh in a 1986 by-election

Mr Kelly admitted to Mr May that "both Hume and Mallon were not party men", unlike Eddie McGrady who had been a member of the National Democratic Party prior to joining the SDLP.

On the recent west Belfast election, he paid tribute to the Sinn Féin electoral machine, but said the republican party had been allowed to get away with an intimidatory presence outside polling stations for far too long.

He also suggested that personation was "rife", accounting for up to 2,000 of the Sinn Féin votes in the constituency: "Armies of supporters had been bussed from polling station to polling station."

Kelly said that Sinn Féin had been complacent in their approach in the west Belfast contest: "Despite their substantial efforts in terms of personation, he believed they had miscalculated, reckoning the immigration of middle-class SDLP voters to south Belfast combined with (Sinn Féin's) vote-stealing" would ensure victory.

"Gerry Adams," he commented, "needed to reassert himself."

 

MP for west Belfast Dr Joe Hendron pictured shortly after his election victory

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