Northern Ireland news

SDLP and Fianna Fáil announcement 'due on Thursday'

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

THE SDLP and Fianna Fáil are expected to make an announcement tomorrow following talks on a future working relationship.

The matter was discussed at a Fianna Fáil party meeting yesterday, and it's understood senior SDLP figures are also being briefed ahead of a formal announcement.

It is believed the parties will announce a schedule for a closer working relationship, including unveiling a shared policy platform.

The expected announcement follows months of talks between the parties which have fuelled speculation of a possible merger.

Sources from both parties have downplayed suggestions of a merger, with the SDLP's leadership previously describing it as a potential "co-operation and partnership with Fianna Fáil".

Some SDLP members have said they would oppose any merger, including Claire Hanna who said she would not join Fianna Fáil.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna is opposed to the merger. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

The South Belfast MLA, the SDLP's Brexit spokeswoman, previously hit out at how the plans have been handled and said there had been "no serious attempt" to engage members in any changes.

Prospective candidates for May's council elections in Northern Ireland have reportedly been told they will still stand under the SDLP banner.

In October last year, a row erupted in Fianna Fáil after some senior party members announced independent councillor Sorcha McAnespy as a Fianna Fáil candidate for the north's council elections.

The announcement was made at a meeting in Co Tyrone, but Fianna Fáil headquarters later issued a statement saying the party had made "no decision" on contesting the election.

Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly were later sacked from senior positions in the party for their role in the 'rogue' launch.

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