Ireland's Labour party mulls running candidates in NI local elections

A ballot box
A ballot box

Ireland's Labour Party leader has said the party is considering potentially running candidates in local elections in Northern Ireland.

Brendan Howlin said he had written to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood last week seeking clarification about a possible merger between Fianna Fail and the SDLP.

Fianna Fail, which is currently the main opposition party in the Irish Republic, is currently in talks with the SDLP and is expected to run a number of candidates in next year's elections.

Speaking at the culmination of the Labour Party's national conference Mr Howlin said he would like to hold discussions with members of the SDLP to see how they "could construct a slate of candidates that would allow people who want to express Labour values to have the option of voting for Labour candidates".

Mr Howlin said his party had worked with the SDLP "as comrades" within the Party of European Socialists for decades.

"I think there are an awful lot of people in the SDLP who remain very loyal to Labour values," he said.

"That's what brought them into the SDLP in the first instance and I don't think they should be abandoned to simply have to join Fianna Fail."

In a bizarre set of events last month Fianna Fail had to insist it had not selected any candidates to stand despite a member of the party's ruling executive maintaining Sorcha McAnespy had been chosen as a candidate to run in next year's local government poll.

Flanked by frontbench Fianna Fail TD Eamon O' Cuiv and party senator Mark Daly, Ms McAnespy was unveiled as a Fianna Fail "candidate".

But on the same evening as she was being unveiled as a candidate at a meeting in Omagh the parliamentary party said it had not selected anyone to run for election.

Ms McAnespy claims party leader Micheal Martin had personally told her she had been chosen as a candidate.

In a speech to Labour party delegates in Dublin on Saturday night Mr Howlin said the Labour party would step in to ensure a "pluralist option" was available to voters in Northern Ireland if the merger between the SDLP and Fianna Fail went ahead.

The Wexford TD said the Labour party wanted a "New Ireland" where everyone on the island of Ireland had a decent standard of living.

He promised to recall the New Ireland Forum, a cross-border body set up by the Irish Government in the 1980s to bring together a range of views on how to end violence in Northern Ireland.