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Nichola Mallon says no immediate prospect of Fianna Fáil merger

Nichola Mallon addresses the SDLP Conference. Picture by Declan Roughan

NICHOLA Mallon has dismissed talk of a merger with Fianna Fáil as “speculation” but the SDLP deputy leader conceded that it may be an option worth considering in the future.

The North Belfast MLA was speaking to The Irish News at Saturday's party conference in Belfast.

Ahead of the weekend gathering, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was "open to future discussions" about cross-border co-operation with Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has previously said he hopes to run candidates in next year's local government elections in the north.

The Irish News has spoken to a number of SDLP councillors who are keen to see the party establish formal links with the party.

But Ms Mallon played down the prospects of an immediate link-up between the two.

“This is all speculation and this speculation has been around for several years – it always re-emerges as we lead into a conference,” she said.

“The SDLP has always been clear, we've said realignment and that should come as no surprise to anybody because since our foundation our vision has been of a new agreed Ireland and that should necessitate a realignment of politics on the island.”

The SDLP deputy leader said “at this particular point in time” the party's focus was about trying to get devolution restored.

“If there is a situation down the line where it's one of a number of options, then we'll consider those options and see what's the best thing but at this moment in time the only option in front of us is the SDLP and that's what I'm committed to,” she said.

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