SDLP-Fianna Fail merger announcement expected early in 2019

File photos of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (left) and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood. Mr Martin said in April that talks of a Fianna Fail merger with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to contest elections in Northern Ireland are a work in progress.
File photos of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (left) and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood. Mr Martin said in April that talks of a Fianna Fail merger with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to contest elections in Northern Ireland are a work in progress.

The SDLP and Fianna Fail are to announce a “process” leading to an eventual full merger between the two parties, it has been reported.

The Irish Times newspaper in Dublin reports the “phased process” will result in “one all-island party which will be called Fianna Fáil”.

In October, there was confusion over an announcement that former Sinn Fein councillor Sorcha McAnespy — who now sits as an independent on the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, and describes herself as a member of the Fianna Fail national executive — would stand for Fianna Fail in local elections next year.

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

But a statement from Fianna Fail soon followed the announcement which stressed that the party had “selected no candidate to contest these elections”.

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

In April, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said talks between the two parties to contest elections in Northern Ireland are a work in progress.

Speaking at a party ‘Think-In’ in Malahide, Co Dublin, Mr Martin said no formal decision had been made over a merger with the Northern Ireland based party, but made reference to the abstentionist policy of elected Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats in Westminster.

“We certainly wouldn’t contest elections and then not take our seats, that’s just blocking people who could represent the anti-Brexit majority in Westminster,” Mr Martin said.

“We’ve made no decision in relation to the north, it is a work in progress, but we are engaged and we do accept the constitution of settlement of the Good Friday Agreement.”

The Irish Times report that negotiations are still under way and that a “significant” announcement is expected from the SDLP and Fianna Fail early in the New Year.