Northern Ireland news

SDLP to join Fianna Fáil on southern campaign trail

Micheál Martin and Colum Eastwood announced formal ties between their parties a year ago. Picture by Michael McHugh/PA Wire

THE SDLP has confirmed that its representative will be canvassing with Fianna Fáil in the run-up to next month's general election in the Republic.

Today marks one year since the two parties unveiled plans to cooperate on a series of all-Ireland policy development initiatives, while undertaking an "unprecedented programme of public engagement" across the island.

The partnership, which has been decidedly low key in the 12 months since, was subsequently ratified by party members weeks later at a special conference.

Formal ties between the two parties was supported by all but one of the SDLP's assembly team.

Claire Hanna, then an MLA for South Belfast, rejected the proposal.

Ms Hanna said she regarded the cross-border coupling as a "merger" that would "narrow" her party's appeal at the polls.

In December election, the former SDLP Brexit spokesperson was elected as MP for South Belfast with a resounding majority, while the same election saw party leader Colum Eastwood take the Foyle seat from Sinn Féin.

Relations between the pair are understood to be healthy though Ms Hanna remains opposed to ties with a single party in the south.

The decision to join Fianna Fáil canvassing in the Republic, where it is currently ahead in the opinion polls, comes after its leader Micheál Martin campaigned for the SDLP in both last May's European election and the recent Westminster poll.

Mr Martin joined SDLP leader Colum Eastwood on the campaign trail in Derry, describing the election as a "critical election for the future of Northern Ireland".

It is unclear whether Mr Eastwood will be reciprocating his counterpart's support in person.

A party spokesman last night said: "SDLP representatives, including the party leader, will be canvassing for our partners in the general election over the course of the coming weeks."

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