Friday, 5 February 2010

A Young Swedish Social Democrat In Northern Ireland

During one week in late December, I travelled for the first time to Northern Ireland to visit the SDLP Youth to get a glimpse of another Social Democratic Youth League activities and organization. By SSU (which is the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League) and its international part, I had contact with Barry Magee who previously worked for the SDLP and was at our Congress in Sweden in August earlier this year. Barry gave me further contact with Matthew McDermott as SDLP Youth's chairman, and I quickly got a very good contact with both Barry and Matthew who welcomed me.

Matthew booked up several very interesting sessions for me, and I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and the welcome I received from everyone in the SDLP. Matthew managed to arrange a meeting with Margaret Ritchie, which I appreciated very huge, and I really believe in the political line she runs and thinks she is a very good representative for the Social Democrats and the SDLP.

For me as a starting point in a Swedish perspective, it was tremendously rewarding to get an insight into political life in Northern Ireland, as it also contains more political reasons than simply left to the right. I had several interesting conversations with representatives from various parties, as Barry had been kind enough to arrange for me because I would get a nuanced picture of the situation today. I really appreciate that enormously, and while I realize that it is difficult for me to understand the thoughts and feelings that exist, then I do not have the same historical roots of the situation today in Belfast for example.

I found, however, a strong social democratic movement and a belief in a change in society that has been shown to be capable in recent years. For me it is clear that social democracy still has and will play an important role. I do think that social democracy and its policies have the ability to understand people's thoughts about the past, but also that its representatives can capture the ideas of society as the new and young generation today.

I feel an enormous gratitude to all the people from the SDLP who I met during my short stay in Northern Ireland, but especially to Barry Magee who really made sure that my stay was as good as it really was. His efforts to schedule meetings with various representatives were really giving me a huge overall. In addition, he gave me personally a huge welcome as I will never forget and his family showed tremendous hospitality. In that way you can say that Barry really showed in concrete action what social democracy can really be. And that is a solidarity that does not know national boundaries and where cooperation between our countries are part of the work towards a better and redder Europe.

Ruben Wågman
Regionombudsman, SSU Stockholm
The Social Democrat youth movement in Sweden

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