Northern Ireland news

Fianna Fáil talks: SDLP must 'stretch beyond comfort zone', party leaders say

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy leader Nichola Mallon. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE SDLP leadership has told members the party must stretch "beyond our comfort zone" ahead of talks concluding on a possible merger with Fianna Fáil.

Members received an email update yesterday on the discussions – two days after newspaper reports that discussions between the parties were almost at an end.

In a new year's message, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy leader Nichola Mallon told members the party needed to "stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone".

Two days after The Irish Times first reported the parties were poised to announce they are to merge, the SDLP leadership said it had been exploring "co-operation and partnership with Fianna Fáil".

"Our discussions have been based on how best to meet the challenges of Brexit, how best to restore the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and how best to ensure that our values of reconciliation and the unity of our people can once again enter into the lifeblood of our politics," the message read.

"These talks have been discussed, sanctioned and supported by our MLA team, our councillors' association and at our management committee.

"These talks are coming to a conclusion and we will of course share with you any proposal which emanates from them."

The leadership said it will be up to SDLP members whether they accept any merger.

"We have been clear, the future of the SDLP will be decided by you, the party, our membership," the message read.

"Any fundamental change which we recommend in terms of the future of this party will be brought to you.

"2019 is a time of great challenge and we must together rise to that challenge to deliver a new Ireland for all of our citizens."

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