Former SDLP mayor and ex-Sinn Féin member to run for Fianna Fáil
TWO northern political figures are competing to secure a place on Fianna Fáil's national executive – with one also planning to contest the next council elections.
Former SDLP Belfast mayor Pat McCarthy, who has been a Fianna Fáil member for a decade, has put his name forward for election to the party's ruling body at its ard fheis on October 13/14.
He will be running against Omagh councillor Sorcha McAnespy, who resigned from Sinn Féin last year.
One of the pair hopes to join the 'committee of 15', a group within Fianna Fáil's 90-member ard comhairle, which is elected at the party's annual conference.
Ms McAnespy (37) also told The Irish News that she hopes to run on a Fianna Fáil ticket in the next local government election in 2019.
Her bid would be in keeping with Micheál Martin's pledge to run candidates from the Republic's most successful party in council elections north of the border.
"Now more than ever we need a political alternative and Fianna Fáil is a mature party with a strong record in government," Ms McAnespy said.
"We have nobody speaking for us in the six counties at the present moment and Brexit is going to create enormous problems, not just in the north but right across Ireland."
She added that she would see out her current council mandate as an independent.
"I think it would be disingenuous of me to switch to Fianna Fáil when I was elected as a Sinn Féin representative but at the next election I'll run as Fianna Fáil – it's to do with my integrity," she said.
However, Mr McCarthy (64) is so far undecided on whether to run in the next local government election.
"I thought I'd put those days behind me," he told The Irish News.
"There's more to life than being in city hall."
Mr McCarthy, who lost his council seat in 2014, said he wanted to be part of a "credible 32-county alternative to Sinn Féin".
"I've always believed in all-Ireland politics and Fianna Fáil fought the last election under an 'Ireland for All' banner – I believe people should now be given the opportunity to put those sentiments into practice," he said.
"They are the natural party of government and I believe they put as much as anyone into the Good Friday Agreement."
Asked whether there was still a possibility of the SDLP merging with Fianna Fáil, he replied: "I think we're past that."
There are past precendents for Fianna Fáil contesting elections in the north and northerners sitting on its national executive.
In 2011, Terry Andrews was elected to the old Down District Council on a Fianna Fáil ticket, while some two years later activist northern-based Mark Hughes joined the party's ard comhairle.
Fianna Fáil declined to comment yesterday.