Margaret Ritchie positive about SDLP-FF link a week after voicing caution

Margaret Ritchie on BBC's The View, 10-01-19
Margaret Ritchie on BBC's The View, 10-01-19

The former leader of the SDLP Margaret Ritchie has said that she is “positive” about the potential for a link-up between her party and Fianna Fail, after initially sounding a cautious note about the idea.

Miss Ritchie, who led the party for 21 months during 2010/11, was speaking on the BBC political show The View.

A week earlier she had appeared much cooler about the idea when interviewed by The News Letter.

It has been suggested by an anonymous Fianna Fail source in the Irish Times that the ultimate aim is to absorb the SDLP wholesale into the much-larger Dublin-based party.

And when asked about the idea of the name ‘SDLP’ vanishing from the political landscape after almost 50 years, Miss Richie (who is recovering after treatment from breast cancer) told the paper this “would be a severe matter of regret”.

“I joined the SDLP in 1980 and I strongly believe in those social democratic and social justice values of the SDLP, and I’d like to see those values represented in the future,” she said. “I want to be, at this stage, cautious until I see the final outcome or recommendation.”

But on Thursday night’s edition of The View, she said: “I think this presents an opportunity; it’s not about a takeover.

“It’s about a partnership between two parties of like-minded disposition. “It is a positive move for me.”

In 2010, she had declared no merger with Fianna Fail would happen “on my watch”.

As to what has changed, she said Brexit came along, and Stormont collapsed.

She added that “I think people are looking for a new type of politics that demands we do something that’s different, but above all delivers for the people”.