Fianna Fáil delays decision to run candiates in the north due to Brexit
A DECISION on whether or not Fianna Fáil will be fielding candidates in Northern Ireland in the next local elections has been delayed amid Brexit concerns.
Previously, party leader Micheál Martin made clear his intentions to run candidates in the north in 2019 and said he would make a firm decision this Christmas.
The issue was brought up at the party's annual conference in October, however Mr Martin has so far held off on making any commitments.
There are concerns among party members that running northern candidates could be seen as a "nationalist takeover" at a time of extreme uncertainty over Brexit, reports The Sunday Business Post.
Under former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the party had previously explored the idea of contesting elections in Northern Ireland, however the plan was scrapped by his successor Brian Cowen due to the recession.
Fianna Fáil do have one elected representative in Northern Ireland, Sorcha McAnespy, who joined the party after leaving Sinn Féin earlier this year. She now sits as an independent councillor for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and has previously stated she would stand under the Fianna Fáil banner in the north in the future.
Writing in the party's AGM programme, Ms McAnespy urged the party to organise candidates in Northern Ireland ahead of the 2019 elections.
"I am very keen to help ensure that FF contest elections in the North in 2019, in order to do that structures and cumman need to be in place and fully operational, I believe with my experience, contacts and enthusiasm I am the person to drive this project forward," she said.
"There needs to be a viable alternative for the Nationalist/Republican Voter, presently we are in a deadlock situation as the players at the table haven't got the experience or maturity that Fianna Fáil could offer."
If the party does stand candidates in 2019, they would be directly competing with Sinn Fein and the SDLP for nationalist votes.
Fianna Fáil are also currently finalising their United Ireland policy document, which could have ramifications for the party's future direction.
The party's Kildare North TD, James Lawless, said there needs to be an alternative for nationalists in the north.
"There has essentially been no representation for the nationalist community because the Northern Ireland Assembly has been gone for almost a year and Sinn Fein aren't taking their seats at Westminster," he told the Sunday Business Post.