Bewilderment over whether Fianna Fail to fight historic NI election

Eamon O'Cuiv TD (left) and and Senator Mark Daly (right) announce Sorcha McAnespy will be a Fianna Fail candidate in next year's local council elections.
Eamon O'Cuiv TD (left) and and Senator Mark Daly (right) announce Sorcha McAnespy will be a Fianna Fail candidate in next year's local council elections.

An Omagh councillor has declared her intention to stand for Fianna Fail in Northern Ireland – despite the party claiming no decision has been made on the matter.

It was announced on Thursday night that former Sinn Fein councillor Sorcha McAnespy – who now sits as an independent, and describes herself as a member of the Fianna Fail national executive – would stand for the party in local elections next year.

It was thought to herald the major Irish party’s historic and long-awaited move to fight elections in the Province.

She was flanked by leading Fianna Fail figures TD Eamon O’Cuiv and senator Mark Daly as a placard with her name and face was revealed at a meeting in Omagh, footage of which was shared online.

But in a bizarre twist, it appears to have come without the full backing of the leadership. Deputy leader Dara Calleary yesterday told RTE it was “premature” for Ms McAnespy to be told she will be a candidate, while its education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he had “absolutely no idea” what the meeting in Omagh was about, describing it as a “complete aberration”.

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Ms McAnespy said: “As far as I am aware I am standing as a Fianna Fail candidate at the local government election next year. I have not been told anything to the contrary. I’m a member of Fianna Fail and the national executive. Under party rules, I am not allowed to stand as an independent and so I have to run as a Fianna Fail candidate.”

A statement from Fianna Fail yesterday said: “Despite some claims and reports, the party has made no decision on whether or not it will contest elections in the North. It follows then that it has selected no candidate to contest these elections.

“Discussions between the party and the SDLP are ongoing and a statement on our future intentions will be made in due course.”

The episode comes amid speculation Fianna Fail might merge with the SDLP to contest future elections, although prominent SDLP MLA Claire Hanna has said she will not be involved in such a merger, saying when it comes to issues like bad governance and Irish unity “I don’t believe that Fianna Fail solves any of those problems”.