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SDLP leadership brand Fianna Fáil merger talk 'unhelpful'

A joint message to SDLP members from Colum Eastwood and Nichola Mallon said merger talk was 'deeply unhelpful'. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

THE SDLP leadership has described the latest reports about a potential merger with Fianna Fáil as "deeply unhelpful".

In a message to party rank and file earlier this week seen by The Irish News, leader Colum Eastwood and his deputy Nichola Mallon gave assurances that the SDLP's future would be decided solely by its membership.

The missive from SDLP headquarters came as the party's youth wing prepares to debate a potential cross-border merger at a conference tomorrow.

A motion has been put forward rejecting a merger with any party in the Republic.

It says that a merger or formal agreement with any southern party would be against the SDLP's founding principles, while hampering its "ability to create positive changes in the north".

SDLP Youth secretary Adam Gannon said recent press coverage meant the issue of a merger was "live".

"We're happy to facilitate a debate among members about this and other issues, such as healthcare and economics," he said.

There was more speculation this week over an SDLP-Fianna Fáil merger

In their message to members, Mr Eastwood and Ms Mallon said there had been recent speculation "around the future of the party and realignment in Irish politics".

They describe the speculation as "deeply unhelpful".

"In light of that speculation, we want to give you the membership the firmest reassurance that the future of this party will be decided by the party – no-one else," the leaders said.

"It will be our decision and our decision alone. In deciding that future, as set out at the party conference, we are determined that our politics and our values of reconciliation and partnership will always, always endure."

Earlier this week, in the latest of series if articles speculating about a cross-border merger, The Irish Times reported that the two parties would initially stand on a joint platform for next spring’s council elections, as part of a phased process which would eventually bring both under the Fianna Fáil banner.

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