Northern Ireland news

SDLP silent on Labour letter asking about Fianna Fáil merger speculation

Labour leader Brendan Howlin
Brendan Hughes

THE SDLP has remained silent on a letter from Labour's leader asking about speculation of a potential merger with Fianna Fáil.

Brendan Howlin has written to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood asking him to outline his intentions on a possible Fianna Fáil merger.

Talks between the SDLP and Fianna Fáil have been ongoing in what is believed could lead to an eventual merger of the two parties.

In his letter, Mr Howlin said he would be delighted if Mr Eastwood could attend Labour's party conference in Dublin this weekend "to discuss the future of social democracy on our island".

He said there have been "several reports of a possible merger between Fianna Fáil and the SDLP, now appearing from official sources for the first time".

He asked Mr Eastwood to "formally indicate to me the future intentions of the SDLP with respect to Fianna Fáil".

Mr Howlin told The Irish Times that the Irish and British Labour parties had resisted previous calls to organise in the north because the SDLP was its sister party.

But he said if a merger with Fianna Fáil went ahead, the Labour parties may have to organise together to contest elections in Northern Ireland.

The SDLP yesterday declined to comment.

Last week Fianna Fáil distanced itself from an announcement by senior figures of a Fermanagh and Omagh councillor as the party's first candidate in the 2019 council elections.

A picture of Sorcha McAnespy holding a Fianna Fáil-branded election poster alongside party TD Éamon Ó Cuív and senator Mark Daly was released after a party meeting in Co Tyrone.

However, the Fianna Fáil Twitter account subsequently tweeted: "Despite some reports, the party has made no decision with regard to contesting the 2019 NI local elections. The party is continuing its discussions with the SDLP."

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