SDLP says it is not stepping aside for Fianna Fail

Colum Eastwood.
Colum Eastwood.

The SDLP has said reports the party could make way for Fianna Fail in Northern Ireland are speculation.

However, it acknowledged realignment cannot be ruled out in the future.

Senior SDLP sources told the Belfast Telegraph around 80% of the party supported it “leaving the stage” to clear the way for Fianna Fail.

But an SDLP statement said: “Comments from unnamed sources amount to no more than speculation.

“The SDLP has and will continue to work with all parties across the island in pursuit of the best solutions to protect the interests of all people here.

“As we have always said realignment across the island cannot be ruled out in the future. But our focus remains on working to stop a return to British direct rule by restoring devolution to protect the interests of people here through a locally accountable government.”

The SDLP, which holds its annual conference in Belfast this weekend, lost its Westminster seats in South Down, Foyle and South Belfast in last year’s general election.

Its bid for Assembly mandates faced competition from a surge in Sinn Fein support.

Fianna Fail has a confidence and supply arrangement backing the minority Irish Government on key votes.

The SDLP spokesperson added: “As a political movement born from the civil rights movement, that led the formulation of the Good Friday Agreement, at huge times of change it is the SDLP who find the solutions. Our politics is needed now to bring people back together as others focus only on pulling people apart.

“The SDLP is always up for the conversation about how we meet the challenges facing this island particularly in the changing context of Brexit.”